Guide To Apprenticeships for Engineers

If you were to look up the best careers for the future or the highest-paying jobs, an engineering profession is bound to make the list every single time. And honestly, it makes perfect sense: Engineers often earn the big bucks for their big ideas and big knowledge. They make the world a better place with their BEE — big engineering energy.

But contrary to popular belief, you don’t necessarily need a four-year degree to become a successful engineer. Engineering apprenticeships offer an alternative career path for budding engineers who may not be ready to drop tens of thousands of dollars to get their engineering degree.

What is an engineering apprenticeship and why should you consider it? Tallo is here to tell you everything you need to know about engineering apprenticeships.

Engineering apprenticeships are programs that provide apprentices with the opportunity to gain the specific knowledge, skills, and experience they need to turn their dream of becoming an engineer into a reality. This is typically accomplished through a combination of on-the-job training and classroom instruction.

Being an Engineering Apprentice

Benefits of apprenticing as an engineer

Completing an engineering apprenticeship can result in many personal and professional benefits that can help you build a flourishing career and contribute to your community. If youre interested in the complex field of engineering, apprenticing can help you understand the day-to-day responsibilities and operations necessary to succeed. This includes technical skills, business knowledge and networking relationships with suppliers, business partners and clients. Here are some of the top merits for becoming an engineering apprentice to start your career:

What is the difference between an internship and apprenticeship for engineers?

Apprentices and interns both seek mutually beneficial learning opportunities, but they have different qualifications and outcomes. Apprentices work closely with their mentor with the express goal of mastering the responsibilities of a specific job. They may need related experience to qualify for the apprenticeship program. Interns participate in a general workplace environment, learning from multiple people about a range of roles and professional opportunities that they could consider.

Internships tend to be short-term programs that give people with limited job experience the opportunity to learn about a specific job or field. Someone may pursue multiple different internships, earning college credit and shaping their future goals. They are often unpaid positions designed to help students build their resumes before entering a professional field. Apprentices are usually full-time paid employees, earning a regular salary while learning to do specialized tasks on the job. While apprentices may have additional unpaid responsibilities, like attending classes or studying for exams, their apprenticeship program or mentor compensates them for their on-the-job learning.

Levels of apprenticeship

Each country has its own expectations and systems for apprenticeship programs, usually with multiple levels of competency. For example, the UK has four levels of apprenticeships that students accomplish to indicate an increasing mastery in their trade. The United States does not have an official structured tier system for engineering apprentices, but many individual apprenticeship programs have offerings based on the apprentices skill and experience levels. Completing all levels of an apprenticeship can take up to six years in the U.S. Although each apprenticeship provider has its own terminology, there are three main levels to describe an apprentices level of proficiency.

Apprentice

When someone decides to learn an engineering trade, they start as an apprentice. Apprentices can be called beginners, assistants, learners or novices depending on the type of program. Like most beginning apprentices, engineering apprentices perform simple tasks to help facilitate an experienced engineers work. They spend a significant amount of time observing others, following instructions and learning about how processes work. Beginning apprentice engineers spend a significant amount of time listening to feedback and interpreting schematics to better understand what the project engineer does.

Journeyman

A mid-level apprentice was traditionally called a journeyman, a term that engineering apprenticeship programs still use today. Other titles for a mid-level engineering apprentice include technician, associate engineer and assistant engineer. These more experienced apprentices have demonstrated enough of an understanding and commitment to begin doing independent work under the direction of their mentor.

They work as a team with other apprentices and may manage small projects by themselves. A journeyman in an apprentice program may qualify for support engineering roles based on their experience, with the opportunity to continue their education to earn additional certifications.

Master

Once an apprentice has fully completed their apprentice program and spent multiple years practicing their trade, they can become a master or mentor. These expert-level professionals can take on their own apprentices and learn how to teach and mentor others. In engineering, master engineers usually work as senior engineering managers who have an important supervisor role. A master-level certification often involved continuing education to show that the engineer has an updated understanding of engineering techniques.

Different engineering fields for apprenticeships

The technical nature of engineering has made apprenticeships a common way to train new engineers. Some engineers take formal classes and transition into an apprenticeship program where they can learn how to apply their theoretical knowledge to real situations.

If you demonstrate the passion and drive to succeed as an engineer, you may also be able to enter an apprenticeship program directly. Before applying for engineering apprenticeships, its helpful to have a strong understanding of the type of engineering that interests you. Here are a few of the most popular fields to consider:

Electrical and electronics engineering

An electrical engineering apprentice learns how to create efficient circuits to improve and maintain electrical systems. The similar role of electronics engineering requires apprentices to understand the process of creating electronic and robotic machines to complete specific functions. Both of these fields require that apprentices learn engineering design and concepts related to physics, chemistry and mechanical development.

Any field that uses electricity or machines including energy, robotics, computer hardware, transportation, media, sound and broadcast and AI tech rely on electrical and electronics engineers. You can look for companies in any of these industries and inquire about their programs for electronics and electrical engineering apprenticeships.

Aerospace engineering

Those interested in how aircraft operate and how to design better-performing machines are perfectly suited for an apprenticeship in the aerospace industry. All the candidate needs is a sound knowledge of physics, science and math, along with designing skills and the ability to understand mechanical concepts. Government programs and private aerospace companies both provide aerospace engineering apprenticeships to qualified candidates so they can build a qualified workforce for the growing aerospace industry.

Mechanical engineering

A mechanical engineer has similar responsibilities as an electrical engineer, but they operate on a larger scale. Theyre responsible for the overall performance of an entire facility, including both machine and human productivity. Mechanical engineers consider how technical parts interact and how people use machines to complete a task.

The main responsibilities of a mechanical engineer include repair and maintenance of machines, R&D for further development of technology, creating designs for better performance, making their vision into reality by overseeing construction and finally testing the machines to ensure smooth performance.

Mechanical engineering is one of the most common fields for engineering apprentices. Many companies rely on mechanical engineering apprentices to keep up with the demand at manufacturing facilities and production plants.

Civil engineering

Civil engineering is required for every infrastructural development, be it the development of bridges, roads, dams, modern buildings, drainage systems and pipelines, ports or airports. A civil engineering apprenticeship would provide someone with education and experience of being a part of projects that help shape peoples lives.

While these are some of the most prominent engineering fields, you can also look for apprenticeships in a niche engineering field. Smaller, more competitive fields have a limited number of spaces available, so starting at another type of engineering apprenticeship program and transitioning after you gain initial experience is common.

Tips for applying for an engineering apprenticeship

If youre interested in pursuing an engineering apprenticeship, you can follow these tips:

Apart from these steps, you can also try to attend career fairs and professional engineering conferences, which are a great way to network with others.

FAQ

What skills do you need for an engineering apprenticeship?

Know What Skills are Important for Getting Involved in an Engineering Apprenticeship
  • Strong analytical skills. A great engineer will be continually examining projects and thinking of ways to make it work better. …
  • Attention to detail. …
  • STEM skills. …
  • Problem-solving skills. …
  • Communication skills.

Is an engineering apprenticeship hard?

The long answer: it’s complicated. Basically, if you wish to undertake an apprenticeship, especially one in engineering, you’ve got to be prepared to work hard and be dedicated to reaching your goals.

How do you become an apprentice engineer?

What are engineering apprenticeships? As an engineering apprentice, you will learn while you earn. You will have a paid job, where you gain practical experience and valuable skills. Apprentice engineer jobs mean you’ll go to college at the same time, to study towards a professional engineering qualification.

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