The Unfiltered Blog

November 11, 2019

The importance of apprenticeships for younger generations

By Chuck Gassmann, CEO

Deciding on a career after high school — we’ve all been there, but for most of us, it’s rarely easy. So many young adults at this stage in their lives consider a four-year degree, but ask themselves, “Is four years of college right for me? Can I really afford it?”

Employee teaching a Bell Brothers Class

On the flip side, there are those with passion for skilled trade jobs that offer hands-on training and experience that starts now. But questions arise on this path as well: “Are skilled trade jobs worth it? Do I really have what it takes?”

If you’re truly passionate about getting hands-on work experience with continued on-the-job training to hone your skills, pursuing a career in the skilled trades can be incredibly rewarding. And starting out, apprenticeship programs help you develop and learn at the right pace while earning money and gaining invaluable experience.

To give you an inside scoop, we sat down with two of our own to gain their perspective on the value of our apprenticeship program here at Bell Brothers:

  • Alex, a student entering his third year in the program
  • Kevin, the director of education for the program and also a teacher

Alex, what’s the biggest thing you’ve learned in our apprenticeship program?
“Electrical,” he says without hesitation. “Working with electricity and reading wire diagrams — that was the biggest hurdle in the beginning. I still have a lot to learn, but that’s been the biggest asset so far.”

Inspired by his dad — a carpenter of 40 years — Alex decided to leave a job working in a body shop to further his career in the skilled trades. His mechanical background and passion for working on cars landed him here at Bell Brothers. The apprenticeship program has given him a lot of hands-on experience and training to use for his career aspirations. But it goes beyond his career.

“My whole goal in life is to be self-sufficient,” he added. “This is just another step in that. I can change a water heater in my house. I can do my air and my furnace — I know those skills. If an outlet in my house needs to be replaced, I can do it. This is allowing me to learn to do things on my own and not rely on others. Not incurring a lot of debt is a benefit, but for me, being self-sufficient is what I like.”

What’s next?
While he’s fairly split on commercial and residential experience in the apprenticeship program, his goal is to become a commercial journeyman.

“I have a long way to go, but that’s where I see myself wanting to go in the long term,” he says. “This program is a great way to get there.”

Kevin, what does day in the life of a technician going through the program and going on calls look like?
“Our apprenticeship program consists of night classes that start at 5 p.m. and run until 9 p.m., one night a week from September through April,” he says. “For customer calls, it depends on your experience coming in, but you’re usually spending a few months in a helper role to get educated and up to speed on the equipment. During this time, you hone your skill set. When you’re out on the job, you become more comfortable with your surroundings and ensuring customers feel confident in your work. This is the foundation to a successful career.”

“We love to see the light bulb go off with these students,” he added. “Yes, we’re also paid, but the rewarding part is to see that guy who started where Alex was and watching the light bulbs start going off — watching him or her become a budding service tech.”

The goal of this program is to ensure everyone coming through learns the value of responsibility. While some students are already well-rounded with multiple life experiences, many are still young. Their objective is to help students understand the importance of showing up on time, having a good work ethic — doing the little things that help them grow as an individual and help our company succeed as a team.

What would you say to someone who came up to you and asked, “I’m thinking about doing this. What do you think — are trade jobs worth it?”
Kevin: “For our line of work, you’re outdoors 90% of the time. So if you like the outdoors, it’s a good fit for you.”

Alex: “It’s labor-intensive, but I think the reward is worth it. For me it’s mentally, ‘Can you do it?’ That’s what it comes down to. I’d also tell them to weigh their options, really think about where they want to go, and if the options are worth it, do it!”

These are primarily independent jobs and self-motivated, get-it-done individuals thrive in this type of work environment. You have to want to work and want to be successful. If you have that part down, we’ll do our part to get you there — that’s what apprenticeship programs are all about.

If you’re interested, learn more about our Apprenticeship Training Program and the Skilled Trades Alliance we formed with other local partners. Both have been tremendously successful at showing a new generation of skilled trade workers the importance of apprenticeship programs and just how rewarding these careers can be.