Apprenticeship is both an ancient tradition and a highly effective modern training method, particularly for those choosing to work in the exciting and increasingly technical construction industry.
The United Association has the first nationally registered joint apprenticeship program in the United States, dating back to 1936. Over 75 years ago!
Individuals who enter a United Association five-year apprenticeship program are part of a select group of men and women motivated to learn a complex and challenging trade while upholding the ideals of trade unionism. Applicants are evaluated on the same fair basis, without regard to race, sex, national origin or religious affiliation.
UA apprentices learn through both classroom and on-the-job training in what is considered by many to be the best construction industry apprentice program in the world. The five-year apprenticeship period is divided into one-year segments, each of which includes 1,700 to 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and a minimum of 216 hours of related classroom instruction.
All UA apprentices receive a strong general education background in the trade, with core courses in basics such as mathematics and drafting. Apprentices choose a specific path to follow, to become trained as a journeyman plumber, pipe fitter, sprinkler fitter, or service mechanic.
All training programs are run through United Association local joint training committees in specific cities or regions, and are overseen by National Joint Training Committees. One of the things that make the UA training program so successful is that we view it as a joint partnership between labor and management.
Apprenticeship is not an easy time: UA apprentices must work the same hours as journeypersons plus attend classes. Yet, this can be a highly rewarding career path for an individual who is highly motivated to learn the piping trade and become an active member of a proud and noble trade union.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Federal Committee on Apprenticeship (1992) defines apprenticeship as a training strategy with eight essential components:
It is equally important to understand what apprenticeship is not. In some European countries, apprenticeship is a widely used form of vocational training for young people (Brodsky 1989). In Austria, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, apprenticeship is a common path for transition from school to work. In the United States, on the other hand, apprenticeship is not aimed at youth who are completing school; rather, it functions far more often to provide upgrading and retraining for adults who are already employed (Glover 1986).
Furthermore, apprenticeship is not a standardized, uniform institution in the United States (“Apprenticeship” 1991-92). The DOL’s Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training oversees apprenticeship functions in collaboration with agencies in 27 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Apprenticeship programs may be sponsored by employers, employer associations, or jointly by employers and unions. Programs registered with state or federal agencies offer apprenticeships in approximately 830 occupations.
In addition, apprenticeship is–in some respects–not widely used as a training strategy (General Accounting Office 1992). Two-thirds of all U.S. apprentices are in 20 of the 830 occupations which have apprentices; of those 20 occupations, all but three (corrections officer, firefighter, and police officer) are in the construction and metal trades. In addition, minorities are underrepresented in apprenticeship programs (ibid.).
Moreover, apprenticeship is not closely and productively linked with vocational-technical education in the United States (Grossman and Drier 1988). Some apprenticeship leaders feel that vocational-technical training provides inadequate preparation for the workplace. Apprenticeship leaders often have little detailed knowledge of vocational-technical education, and educators often lack such detailed knowledge about apprenticeship. In addition, leaders in both vocational-technical education and apprenticeship can be influenced by issues of control and ownership.
Finally, apprenticeship is not just a strategy that involves training outside the classroom or training content strictly determined by occupational needs (Federal Committee on Apprenticeship 1992). Apprenticeship is distinguished from such training strategies–including cooperative education, tech prep, and summer or part-time work experiences–by the unique combination of its eight essential components. Although such other training strategies may have great value in their own right, only apprenticeship produces fully trained, competent journeypersons with the skills needed to perform effectively in the workplace.
Orientation – Three weeks HVAC (120 unpaid hours). First year Apprentices work for a Signatory Contractor for four weekdays and attend school (8 hours/paid) one day per week. There are a total of 44 paid school days for a 1st Year HVAC Apprentice.
Orientation – Eleven weeks Building Trades (440 unpaid hours). First year – approx. nine months working full time for Union contractor plus 400 full time classroom hours (10 weeks) per year.
HVAC Apprentices work for a Signatory Contractor for four weekdays and attend school (8 hours/paid) one day per week. There are a total of 44 paid school days for a 2nd Year HVAC Apprentice.
Building Trades 2nd year – approx. nine months working full time for Union contractor plus 400 full time classroom hours (10 weeks) per year.
HVAC Apprentices work for a Signatory Contractor for four weekdays and attend school (8 hours/paid) one day per week. There are a total of 44 paid school days for a 3rd Year HVAC Apprentice.
3rd year Building Trades Apprentices work twelve months full time for Union contractor plus up to 90 classroom night hours per year.
HVAC Apprentices work for a Signatory Contractor for four weekdays and attend school (8 hours/paid) one day per week. There are a total of 44 paid school days for HVAC 4th Year Apprentices.
4th year Building Trades Apprentices work twelve months full time for Union contractor plus up to 90 classroom night hours per year.
All Apprentices work for a Signatory Contractor full-time.
5th year Building Trades and HVAC Apprentices work twelve months full time for a Union contractor plus up to 90 classroom night hours per year.