Apprenticeships open doors

Dear Working Wise: I want a good career, but right now I’m stuck in a dead-end job.

Dear Working Wise: I want a good career, but right now I’m stuck in a dead-end job.

I’ve heard tradespeople make good money. How do I become an apprentice in the trades? — Want to Trade Jobs

Dear Want to Trade Jobs: The trades are an excellent career option for many reasons.

First, as an apprentice, you spend about 80 per cent of your time earning a wage while you learn on the job from a qualified tradesperson.

First-year apprentices earn about half of a journeyman’s wage. As you take more training and get more experience, your pay increases.

You spend the remainder of your time taking technical training at a college or technical institution. Apprenticeship programs can last anywhere from one to four years, depending on the trade.

Second, tradespeople tend to earn good wages and have the opportunity to join companies or bargaining units and enjoy benefits like health care and pensions. Many tradespeople also go on to open their own businesses or teach.

And third, there are so many career options within the trades that you are bound to find something you really like. The trades are not limited to plumbers and electricians. In Alberta, there are 50 different trades you can apprentice in from appliance service technician to well-testing services supervisor. For a complete list, check out

How to get started

Pick your trade. Get as much information as you can about your choices from the Internet, school career counsellors, or your nearest Apprenticeship and Industry Training Office.

Talk to people working in the trades that interest you. Speak to employers — maybe they’ll let you “job-shadow” to see what the day-to-day work is like. Ask lots of questions!

Find an employer. Thousands of employers hire and train apprentices. The hardest part of getting into the trades is finding an employer willing to train you. Send potential employers your resumé and a letter of introduction explaining your intentions.

Apply. Once you have a job, you and your employer need to complete an apprenticeship training application / contract and return it to the nearest office of the Apprenticeship and Industry Training Branch.

The apprenticeship contract is an agreement between you and your employer. You are responsible for completing both your technical and on-the-job training. Your employer is responsible for paying you a certain percentage of the journeyman wage rate, increasing your pay as you progress through training, training you on the job and allowing you to attend technical training.

To get more information about apprenticeship and careers in the trades, visit

Working Wise is compiled weekly by Charles Strachey, a regional manager with Alberta Employment and Immigration. Work-related questions can be sent to him at Working Wise is provided for general information only. Help with specific situations is available through Alberta Employment Standards by calling 1-877-427-3731.

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