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FAQ’s about State approved Apprenticeship Programs

There are a lot of good, well paying construction jobs in the Sacramento Area–jobs that lead to a career, jobs that will enable you to support your family, buy a house, a decent car, and have enough left over for some King’s tickets. But you don’t get jobs like these by just dropping off a resume or filling out an application. You have to get some training, and it’s got to be the right training. Anyone can teach you to dig a ditch or hammer a nail, but if that’s all you know, sooner or later you’ll end up with a sore back and a bunch of bills. The right kind of training is available right here in River City. It’s called Joint Apprentice Training because it’s jointly managed by union workers and their employers.

This book contains detailed information about Construction Apprentice Pathways in the Sacramento Area. What they are all about. What they pay. How to get in one. They are great deals for some people. Maybe you’re one of them. This book will help you find out.

Union Apprentice Programs are among the most successful and effective vocational training programs ever devised. They have been developed and fine-tuned for over a hundred years by a close collaboration between employers and their union workers. Here in Sacramento, apprentices and graduates of these programs built the bridges over the Sacramento River, Arco Arena, SMUD’s generation plants, the Hyatt Regency Hotel, the high-tech facilities at Intel, Sacramento’s light rail system, and restored California’s historic State Capitol. View a list of Programs

Is Construction the Right Career for You?

Construction careers offer a wide range of opportunity, variety, great wages and benefits, teamwork, and a dynamic work environment. Beginning with apprenticeship and on to Journeyman you will learn a life-long skill that you can take anywhere in the world. And, if working with tools isn’t what you’re looking for, you still have a choice of careers in construction as an architect, planner, inspector, project manager, labor representative, or starting your own construction business.

Not cut out for a desk job? Construction sites are exciting, high energy places where you work side-by-side with other skilled crafts people from all different trades. However, these jobs are not for the faint of heart. You may be working high in the air or below thousands of tons of equipment. As a construction worker you must be willing to survive the elements, heat and cold, rain or shine. You will need to decide if you can work under conditions like these occasionally.

Construction workers have to be self starters, starting with getting to work, (generally at 6 am) when office workers are still snug in their beds. They must have reliable transportation; and, for the safety of themselves and their co-workers, they must be drug and alcohol free on the job site. Construction involves teamwork and all members of the team are expected to do their share. Those who don’t are replaced, and quickly.

Construction Takes Both Brains & Muscle.

You must be quick thinking, hardworking and up for the job of problem solving in construction. Working in a skilled construction trade requires confidence, concentration, a positive attitude and good communication skills. You can expect to interact with all types of people and there is always something new to learn.

If you enjoy working out this may be the job for you. A career in construction requires that you be physically fit. Think of it as getting paid to join a health club. You get a workout and a paycheck. On the job you can expect to be exposed to the elements–sun, wind, rain, heat and cold. You must be willing to work hard under a variety of circumstances. Agility, manual dexterity, ability to work in small or confined spaces, strength and stamina to perform repetitive tasks are just some of the physical traits that are required. As in any athletic profession, keeping your body in good condition will protect you from injury and help you to work right up to the time for retirement.

If you love tools, like to tinker, and are fascinated by how things are put together, you should explore a career in one of the building and construction trades.

What is an Apprentice?

To enter a building and construction trade, you start as an apprentice. Apprenticeship programs offer a positive alternative to a four year college degree. They provide an opportunity to get paid while working and learning a life-long skill. These programs provide paid job training with related classroom training and continuing education, often for college credit. As an apprentice, you get all this, plus you’ll receive great wages, health benefits, pensions and more. All this, and no student loan to pay off. Apprenticeship programs combine on-the-job training (OJT) with related classroom instruction to produce a qualified journey person that has no equal. Other work force training programs have tried, but none have been as successful as today’s Union Apprentice Programs.

For the thousands of young people coming out of high school who are not moving on to college, apprenticeship represents the best opportunity for obtaining the education and on-the-job training so important for a high paying career. It also represents the best avenue for single parents transitioning from public assistance into the workplace and a future career in a skilled trade.

What do Apprentices earn?

Apprentices start at a percentage of the skilled Journeyman’s wage and receive increases at regular intervals. Starting rates are usually 35% to 50% of a Journeyman’s wage (about $20 per hour, depending on the trade) plus health and pension benefits. In most trades increases are given every six months. Most apprentice programs are for four years. Details of each trade are shown beginning on page 1.

Is Education Important?

Like a college education, the successful completion of an apprenticeship program does not come easy, but is the result of hard work on the part of the apprentice.

Practically every skilled occupation requires a knowledge of arithmetic that is more than fundamental. The ability to read, write and speak well is more important in some apprenticeship occupations than it is in others.
In most trades, particularly where contact with the public is involved, a good disposition, the ability to work with others, and a neat appearance are considered necessary.

In some programs, apprentices who have taken shop courses, or have some knowledge of mechanical drawing, physics, blueprint reading, drafting, higher mathematics, chemistry, electricity, welding and the like, will have an advantage. In the construction trades listed in this book, some or all of the following traits are desirable or essential: Physical fitness, a good sense of balance, eye-hand coordination, color sense, agility, strength, ability to work at heights and mechanical aptitude.

Many construction apprentice programs require or give preference to applicants with a high school diploma or G.E.D. The kind of people who make good construction workers generally like to work with their hands and use tools to build and repair things. They like to finish the things they start and don’t care how dirty or greasy the job, as long as they get it done and done well. They enjoy visits to shops and factories and like to talk to mechanics about the jobs they do and the problems they meet in their work. In school, they get along well in shop, science, mathematics and mechanical drawing classes, and enjoy working on practical problems in the classroom and at home.

What are Apprentice Classes Like?

Apprentices attend classes of technical instruction related to their trade. This instruction, supplemented by on-the-job training, gives apprentices a thorough understanding of the theoretical aspects of their work. This trade related instruction is one of the basic features of apprenticeship and has been developed and accepted as standard practice in every trade. In some cases, this means attending classes at night 4 hours each week, for at least 108 hours or more a year. The instruction includes such subjects as safety laws and regulations, mathematics, drafting, blueprint reading and other sciences connected with the trade. Details for each program are given starting on page 1.

In class, apprentices learn the theoretical aspects of their trade. Then, each day under the supervision of skilled Journeymen, they learn how to put that theoretical class work to practical use on the job site.

Is There a Need for More Construction Workers in Sacramento?

When the recession hit in 2009 there were more than 35,000 construction workers in Sacramento and construction was one of the top five local industries. Since then construction has been greatly scaled back and many construction workers have retired or left the workforce. But construction is coming back. Projects like the King’s Entertainment and Sports Complex, Light Rail expansion and the downtown rail yards project are just a few that will be built in the years to come. And new, emerging technologies like green construction, solar and wind power generation and computerized controls require a highly-trained and skilled workforce. Plus, a Journeyman/woman union construction worker can go anywhere in the country where construction is booming and have a great chance of quickly getting a good job. And it is very difficult to outsource construction work to another country.

Steps an Apprentice Applicant Should Take.

1. Select an occupation for which you have an aptitude or some previous experience and the physical ability to perform.

2. Find out if you meet the minimum qualifications for that occupation.

3. Decide whether you can work under job conditions which sometimes can be hazardous, dirty, uncomfortably hot or cold, as well as just plain uncomfortable.

4. Apply for an apprenticeship either to the appropriate union, or one of the Union Apprentice Programs in this book.

5. If the apprenticeship committee has a waiting list of applicants, determine whether or not you are sufficiently interested in the occupation to wait for an opening, or whether you should seek other employment. If you do apply, keep in touch with the program to let them know you’re interested.

6. Some apprenticeship committees have applicants find their own employment with a firm which participates in the apprenticeship program.

7. If you apply to more than one program your chance of getting accepted increases.

8. Research the various trades and their programs on the web. Many of the programs starting at page 1 have their own websites. Other good sources of information about construction apprenticeships

Building California Construction Careers,

California Division of Apprentice Standards, and click apprenticeship programs.

California Apprenticeship Coordinators Association,

What is Expected of Apprentices?

• A willingness to learn

• Regular school attendance

 • Dependability on the job

• Ability to work as part of a team

• Perform a day’s work for a day’s pay

• Be drug and alcohol free

 • The development of safe work habits

Why Unions Make Sense for Construction Workers.

Because of the nature of the industry few contractors retain a large full-time workforce. Instead, they hire extra people depending on the size of the project they are building. So a construction worker may find him or herself working for Company A building a bridge for 9 months, and then being off for three months before going to Company B for 6 months, to build a parking garage. This all means that the worker must be financially prepared to survive the times when there is no work or weather keeps the job site closed down. He or she must also figure out how to get medical and retirement benefits when working for a number of different employers.

Construction unions have figured out an answer for these on-again, off again kind of working conditions. A union worker’s benefits (medical, dental, vision care, retirement, and vacation) travel with him or her from job to job. So a union construction worker gets his benefits whether he is working for Company A, or Company B, or just looking out the living room window wishing the rain would quit. Union construction workers also get the same wage from one job to the next.

Non-union workers aren’t so lucky. They must accept whatever wages are offered from job to job. And their benefits, when available, are rarely transferable from one employer to another, and almost never cover members of the worker’s family.

But good union wages and benefits come with some high, but reasonable, expectations. Union construction workers are expected to work hard, work smart, and work safely. Look at any complicated construction project like a high rise office building or power generation plant, and you’ll find its workforce is predominantly union, if not all union. No one wants to build a 45 million dollar high rise that might collapse because it was slapped
together by poorly trained, under paid, unmotivated workers.

Women in Construction.

Construction careers offer women high wages and great benefits. The best thing about the wages for a woman in construction is that there is no glass ceiling. Every qualified Journey person is paid the same, whether it is a man or a woman. There are no exceptions.

A woman can expect to earn 20-30% more in a construction career than in a more traditional woman’s career.

The construction industry’s urgent need for skilled workers creates opportunities for women to enter the field.

As said before, construction work, though rewarding, is physically hard. Some people think that’s why there aren’t more women in construction. The women who are in construction might disagree. If you have any doubts or questions, any program will be happy to put you in touch with a Journey woman to find out for yourself.

Finally, a few words about harassment. In construction today, harassment of women is considered a serious violation of rights and is not tolerated. The industry and the labor unions have put safeguards and procedures in place to prevent it and quickly deal with it if it happens.

What If You’re Not Quite Ready for an Apprenticeship?

If you’re interested in construction, but your math needs a little touching up, if you aren’t sure which trade you would be best suited for, or if you’ve never owned an alarm clock, then a Pre-Apprentice Program may help you get you ready for a construction apprenticeship.

Northern California Construction Training (NCCT), located in Sacramento, has been providing outstanding pre-apprenticeship training for over ten years. NCCT is a 6 month program tailored to the individual students’ needs. However, due to small class sizes, applicants must be highly motivated. Students are taught how the construction industry works; introduced to all of the building trades; learn practical construction math, tools, safety, and the importance of teamwork. At the end of the course, graduates are helped to apply for construction apprenticeships. To get practical, hands-on experience, students may work alongside Journeyman Instructors, on worthwhile public service projects like parks, schools and low-income housing.

80% of NCCT’s graduates have been successfully placed in apprentice programs with starting pay from 12 to 17 dollars per hour, plus benefits. For more details about this and other NCCT programs, contact Northern
California Construction Training, POB 263585, Sacramento CA 95829- 3585; phone 916/387-1557; email,

American River College also offers Pre-Apprenticeship training through the STRIPE program. STRIPE stands for Sacramento Transportation Regional Infrastructure Partners in Education. It is a one semester, 16 college unit pre-apprenticeship program that prepares students for apprenticeship in 13 different trades building our region’s infrastructure. Students also learn about green technology used in these trades. The curriculum includes daily PE, contextualized basic skills in reading blueprints and solving construction math problems, and helps students develop and market themselves by writing resumes and participating in mock interviews with employers. It includes classroom instruction and hands-on building projects, field trips, and guest speakers. For more information on the ARC STRIPE program, visit the website at of Study/Technical Education/STRIPE.

The Sacramento Employment and Training Agency and the Sacramento Works Job and Training Centers partners with the Sacramento-Sierra Building & Construction Trades Council to promote and support employment in the construction trades. If you are looking for a job, Sacramento Works’ Job and Training Centers may have the tools and resources you need. Sacramento Works operates 5 Job Centers and 8 Training Centers providing career counseling, employment referral, vocational training and a host of other resource services to assist individuals in obtaining employment. For more information, please visit the Sacramento Works website at