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Apprenticeship Programs to Enter the 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.

More advanced aspects of the job are taught to the apprentice as he or she becomes proficient in the various basic skills. The programs usually take from two to four years to complete. Once the person has finished his or her apprenticeship term, he or she should be a highly skilled and valued employee.

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 text-books, which will become the student's personal property and a start at com-piling 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.

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.
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