Interesting, and Lucrative, Apprenticeships: A Few Suggested Resources


If you’re game for a career path that involves something a bit more unusual (and less costly) than the typical routine—four years of college, maybe grad school, then the first job you can find in high tech or finance—there are literally hundreds of paths available to you.

Many begin with some kind of formal system of apprenticeship, and all can be easily found.  Just googling on terms like “The most interesting apprenticeships,” “highest-paying apprenticeships,” or “apprenticeships in design/software coding/whatever” will turn up more avenues than you have time to go down. You don’t need us to list more obvious search terms, so we’ll concentrate on a few interesting opportunities for apprenticeship that might escape your notice.  Along with some worthy alternatives for training tomorrow’s workers:


FOR YOUNG PEOPLE INTERESTED IN THE TRADES: To open new career opportunities for high-school students, the Harbor Freight Tool Company joined forces with Big Picture Learning, a public-school reform initiative, to create the Harbor Freight Fellow Initiative. The partnership has yielded innovative programs in 65 high schools in the U.S., and more across the globe.

FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO WORK WITH THEIR HANDS: Few organizations have apprenticeship programs that are more well-established and extensive than the United Association of Apprentices and Journeymen of the Plumbers and Pipefitting Industry. Boasting a membership of 45,000, and training programs in all 50 states, the UA trains people to work in almost every industry that involves a building project, from schools and hospitals to power plants and water conservation systems. Apprenticeships of this kind, which are called “registered apprenticeships,” pay apprenticeships while they learn–on the job and in classes. And, as can be seen in this video, UA apprenticeships aren’t just for men.

SOFTWARE PROGRAMMING: In conjunction with Illinois Central College, a small software security firm in Peoria, called Ishpi, has created what’s called a dual-system apprenticeship model, where students split their time between work and college. The program is a favorite of the Center on Education & Skills at New America, a Washington, D.C. think tank. As Mike Prebil, a program associate for the Center, puts it, “We like it because it is what we call a degree apprenticeship (you get your associate degree at the same time), because it’s built on industry standards (from Carnegie-Mellon), and because its mastermind (Girish Seshagiri) is open to allowing others to use the standard.” Furthermore, he adds, any graduates certified in software security “will have bullet-proof careers. No doubt.”

TEN OTHER GREAT JOBS THAT START WITH AN APPRENTICESHIP: According to a report by The Simple Dollar, a website on personal finance, the average annual salary for an apprentice who completes his or her program is more than $50,000. Compared to high school graduates, workers who complete an apprenticeship can earn approximately $300,000 more over the course of their careers. This may be one reason more and more people have been engaging in apprenticeships, despite the public’s relutance to support the practice of apprenticing. In 2014 alone, the U.S. Department of Labor found, 1,600 new apprenticeship programs were established. By the end of 2017, the number of active apprentices across the country was approaching 500,000.

AN APPRENTICESHIP MODEL FOR POLICYMAKERS: In 1919, The Apprentice School was founded in Newport News, Virginia, to serve the shipbuilding industry. Since then, without charging a dime for tuition, the school has graduated more than 10,000 students; in the process, these students were exposed to a range of complex skills and crafts that can prove useful well beyond the shipyard. More important, as The New York Times reports, the school has built partnerships not only with industry but also a local college (Old Dominion University) so that students can earn Bachelors degrees while learning a trade.


SOCIAL ENTERPRISES: One of the most promising trends in the philanthropy world are organizations pursuing more profit-oriented approaches to social good called “venture philanthropy” and “impact investing.” An interesting examplar of this movement is REDF, which funds businesses that are competitive, revenue-generating operations with a clear social mission: they hire and train people who would otherwise be held back because of a history of homelessness, incarceration, mental health issues, substance abuse, or limited education.

CARE ACADEMY: While one can never be sure of which professions will grow or decline, there is one field where expansion is pretty much guaranteed: home health care, for the nation’s growing cohort of senior citizens. To meet this demand, Care Academy has devised an unusually efficient system of training. They’ve produced hundreds of short videos that a home caregiver can pull up when emergencies occur that they don’t know how to handle. To expand training for home caregivers, Care Academy has also teamed up with CareLinx. To learn more, here is Care Academy’s FAQ.

30 ONLINE TRADE SCHOOLS LEADING TO HIGH-PAYING JOBS: Before you balk at the idea of learning a trade online (I would be wary, too), these programs appear to be getting better and better. Indeed, a recent study by the United States Department of Education has shown that online degree programs for distance learners are “as good or better than traditional on-campus learning.” If nothing else, the list here offers a good guide to what’s out there, and what you can expect to earn at 30 different trades.

© 2020 Todd Oppenheimer, all rights reserved. Under exclusive license to Craftsmanship, LLC. Unauthorized copying or republication of this article is prohibited by law.

Published: July 11, 2018