Apprenticeship Programs - Only Way to Enter Automotive Trades

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Apprenticeships once were the only way to enter the automotive trades. However, the opportunities for apprenticeships have lessened in recent years. More often, career-related education in high school and a community college plus good grades will win you the chance to work with a dealership or an independent shop that may sponsor you while you complete your education. If you do have the opportunity for a true apprenticeship under a master technician take it! The experience will be well worth your time. Some efforts are under way to revive the apprenticeship system, based on the very successful European model, and bring the same pride of craftsmanship and guild spirit to American automotive shops. The traditional apprenticeship path is described here, and it will give you an idea of what you'll need to study, no matter what auto technician program you attend.

Apprenticeship programs are designed to teach a particular trade by placing a person in a job and exposing him or her to all facets of that trade during instruction. Along with on-the-job training, there are required amounts of instruction in theory. Formal instruction classes are held at local schools or community colleges. Sometimes the training is offered at the person's place of employment. Occasionally correspondence courses are necessary.

The United States Department of Labor Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training, in cooperation with the Automotive Service Councils, developed a national apprenticeship program in 1977.

In a letter to the United States Department of Labor, George W. Merwin, III, the executive vice president of the Automotive Service Councils, said, "Our current energy crisis and rising standards of pollution control deem it absolutely necessary that any individual charged with the responsibility of servicing or repairing a motor vehicle must be a professional. The individual must have received the best possible training before being given the responsibility of preparing a vehicle which will go out onto the streets and become an integral part of our environment. How the car, truck, or bus is serviced will have a great bearing on the outcome of current economic and environmental problems, and more importantly, the safety of the driver and passengers."

Entering an Apprenticeship Program

If you are interested in an apprenticeship program, the first step is to contact an employer in the field in which you are interested. It you are unsure of which employers are involved, contact the local labor union that represents workers in the field. Another good place to start is with the state employment service office in your area.

All apprentices have an obligation to ensure their own success by applying themselves diligently in the shop, doing good work, and learning their trade. It is their responsibility to preserve their self-respect and maintain the respect of those with whom they work, their employer, and the customers they serve. They must make every effort to understand the apprenticeship program and abide by all the rules and regulations established by the apprenticeship committee. Apprentices also learn about business ethics.

They are expected to purchase their own textbooks and any other needed items, although some employers pay for all or part of the cost of tools and textbooks, which will become the student's personal property and a start at compiling tools and books for their professional use.

Apprentices need to submit all reports required by the apprenticeship committee and meet with the committee when instructed to do so. On their own initiative, they are expected to attend classes or complete home study assignments made by the apprenticeship committees or their instructors. Time spent in such study is not considered as hours of work, and they will receive no pay for time so spent unless they are required to perform such study during their regular hours of work.

Qualifications for Apprenticeship

To be eligible for apprenticeship, applicants must be at least eighteen years old. They have to be physically fit for the work of the trade and must have a doctor's certificate of health. The employer will pay for the examination.

Applicants accepted for an apprenticeship program who have been employed in the trade may be granted advanced standing as apprentices. Of course, the committee will check the work history and require such applicants to take an examination that covers practical experience and related instruction subjects.

Applicants who are admitted to the advanced standing will be paid the wage rate of the period in which they are placed.

An apprentice who claims previous experience will be expected to furnish evidence of previous employment by a letter from any businesses where be or she was employed, detailing the dates of employment and the type of work performed. The person also will be required to supply a record of previous related instruction subjects and work experience.

Apprenticeship Agreement

Each apprentice and the employer will sign an agreement, and copies will be given to the apprentice, the apprenticeship committee, and the registration agency. The apprenticeship standards, signed by the employer, contain a description of the trade to be learned, a schedule of the work processes and wage rates, and a requirement that the apprentice shall attend related instruction on theory for the time required to learn the trade.

The employer is expected to make every effort to provide reasonably continuous employment for apprentices.

Apprentices usually have to serve a probationary period of at least five hundred hours of reasonably continuous employment. During this time the committee may terminate or cancel the agreement, upon receiving a letter from the employer or the apprentice, without the formality of a hearing. However, after the five hundred hour probationary period, the agreement cannot be cancelled without the opportunity for a hearing by the committee.

Responsibilities of Apprentices

When applicants sign the apprenticeship agreement, they voluntarily agree to abide by the provisions of the apprenticeship program. Here are some of the responsibilities and obligations imposed on apprentices during the apprenticeship program:
  • To perform diligently and faithfully the work of the trade and duties assigned by the employer, supervisor, or journeyman, in accordance with the provisions of the local program.

  • To respect the property of the customer, employer, journeyman, and others and to abide by the working rules and regulations of the employer and the committee.

  • To attend regularly and complete satisfactorily the required hours of instruction in subjects related to the trade.

  • To maintain records of work experience and related instruction as may bf required by the committee.

  • To develop safe working habits and conduct themselves in their work such a manner as to ensure their own safety as well as that of their f workers.

  • To work for the person to whom they are assigned.

  • To conduct themselves at all times in a creditable, ethical, manner, realizing that much time, money, and effort are affording them an opportunity to become competent tech.

  • To be neat in appearance at all times.

  • To furnish the required hand tools necessary to perform apprentice.

  • To purchase their textbooks or any other items. Some employers agree to purchase who maintain an acceptable grade average.
A year of the apprenticeship is normally considered necessary. Apprentices are expected to exercise the same diligence in their studies as they do in their work on the job.
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