There are approximately 1500 apprentices at PNCI. Their average age is thirty. Some of them have experience gained through non-union construction work. They come to union apprenticeship programs looking for more security, a better wage and health benefits for their families.
Many apprentices, however, are making a complete career change. You will meet people who decided that life behind a computer or a cash register wasn’t providing the lifestyle they desired, people who wanted out of their high rise office tower or manufacturing plant, people with college degrees in a subject that didn’t lead them to career success or satisfaction, and people who are simply looking for a fresh start.
It can be challenging to become an adult career changer but there is also joy in learning new skills and satisfaction in knowing that you’re able to perform a once-difficult task better and faster now.
Be Realistic about Potential Barriers & Solutions
Are you ready for the physical challenges of construction work? There is all sorts of weather in which to work here in the beautiful Northwest. Stamina is required to be on your feet and on the go all day. Every job has challenges; in construction you could be working at great heights and other times working in confined spaces.
It might be financially challenging at first to join the construction industry. You may need to rely on savings and family support as you relaunch your career. Your apprenticeship classes are free but you will need to buy books each quarter. Work clothes, boots, tool bags and tools will be additional expenses. Reliable transportation is vital for an apprentice too.
If you need assistance with the transition, your Apprenticeship Coordinator can refer you for support services. For example, financial assistance for child care, tools and gas money is available through a variety of resources.
Applying for Your Apprenticeship
Adult career changers may choose to enroll in a short pre-apprenticeship program to become a stronger candidate for an apprenticeship or apply directly to one of PNCI’s five apprenticeship programs.
Decide which of our five (5) programs you wish to apply for. PNCI prepares construction professionals in the following trades:
- Carpenters – Video: Meet PNCI Carpenter Apprentices
- Exterior Interior Specialist – Video: Meet PNCI EIS Apprentices
- Millwright – Video: Meet a PNCI Millwright Apprentice
- Pile Driver – Videos: Meet a PNCI Pile Driver Apprentice and a Pile Diver
- Scaffold Erector – Video: Meet a PNCI Scaffold Erector Apprentice
Determine if the Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee (JATC) overseeing the specific apprenticeship is accepting applications. This is decided on a monthly basis, as the committee monitors the current number of apprentices and the amount of jobs available. When there is a building boom, union contractors have lots of work and need more Carpenters and their apprentices, creating demand. The JATC will seek more applications. If the construction industry slows down or if there are an excessive number of apprentices not working, the JATC will stop taking applications; it would be unethical to bring more apprentices into the program only to be unemployed and feel frustrated.
If the apprenticeship you seek is not open, consider what you can do now to be an outstanding candidate in the near future. Carpenters are industrial athletes; what can you do to improve your flexibility, strength and endurance? Can you collect work references that demonstrate your ability to learn, accept feedback, communicate and work as a team member? Are you ready to pass a pre-employment drug test? Should you consider a pre-apprenticeship or employment in a related field? Do you already have experience doing physical labor and adapting to working outdoors in various weather situations?
If your apprenticeship program is open, complete the online application. Choose a date to attend Required Pre-Interview Preparation. Upon completing this online workshop, you will be scheduled for your interview with the JATC (typically in the next month). Your application and interview are scored and ranked. Top ranking individuals will be invited to become an apprentice as space becomes available.
Understand how selective this process is. This is not like applying for a job that needs a warm body tomorrow or to a college that needs tuition-paying students. Your application indicates that you are making a career path choice. An invitation to join an apprenticeship is the Carpenters Union investing in your future success; the Union will commit about $35,000 to your “free” four-year training program.
Your interview is the opportunity to tell your story and demonstrate commitment to your career plan. Prepare for your interview. Anticipate what the JATC members might ask you and practice your answers. Make a list of your positive qualities and the pertinent life experiences (manual labor, working in adverse weather, previous construction jobs, etc.) you want to remember to mention.