Apprenticeship vs. Internship: Have You Considered a Career in the Trades?

Apprenticeships and internships both offer training. But if your goal is a good, steady job afterward, an apprenticeship may be better for you.

Apprenticeships and internships provide on-the-job training that can lead to a full-time job. According to an industry-wide survey by the Associated General Contractors of America, 80 percent of contractors had difficulty filling positions for workers. Currently, there aren’t enough qualified tradespeople to fill all of the open jobs.

On the other hand, according to a report by CNBC, 60 percent of corporations in the U.S. planned to reduce head count in 2020. As corporations continue to look for ways to cut expenses, they are less likely to create new jobs. So it’s safe to say it’s a good idea to consider a career in the trades.

What Is an Apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a paid job in which a person (the apprentice) learns from expert tradespeople known as journeymen. An apprentice learns skills while on the job, and while studying theoretical material, usually through a technical college.

Apprenticeships usually run about two years, but can last up to six years depending on how complicated the trade is. An apprenticeship is meant to provide a pathway to a job in the trades.

Pros

Apprenticeships allow trainees to gain skills while being paid. For many people, this eliminates the need to take out a loan while training.

With a shortage of experienced trade workers and more people retiring each year, apprenticeships usually lead to higher paying jobs. Depending on the apprenticeship contract, the apprentice may also be eligible for holiday pay, which a lot of interns don’t get.

Cons

Companies and organizations sponsor apprenticeships, and the apprentice must fulfill certain responsibilities as part of the contract they sign. Failing to fulfill an apprenticeship contract might have legal ramifications that limit where the person can work, or require them to pay back some of the money spent on the apprenticeship. And although the pay tends to increase every year of the apprenticeship, it remains far below that of full-time co-workers.

What Is an Internship?

An internship is a short-term job, often during the summer, although some can extend into the school year. Internships provide work experience to college students seeking jobs in a specific career field.

Interns assist full-time employees with projects and tasks while learning valuable skills and knowledge about the company. Some internships are paid, some are not. An internship can be a path to a corporate job after graduation.

Pros

An internship provides work experience before graduation. A lot of entry-level corporate jobs require some sort of internship experience. Even for those that don’t, an internship can give you a leg up on the competition.

Internships also let you see what it’s like working for that employer. The intern could discover the company they’ve always dreamed of working for isn’t a good fit. And internships let you explore multiple career paths.

Cons

The biggest downside of some internships is that they are unpaid. For college students responsible for their own bills, this can be a big problem. The student/intern may have to borrow money during the internship.

Also, the quality of the work is not always high. Sometimes interns are given simple tasks the full-time employees don’t want to do. And even paid internships usually don’t pay very well. Although internships provide valuable experience and often lead to jobs, a job offer is not guaranteed.

Plus, internships vastly differ from one company to the next. Some provide stellar internship programs known for high pay and quality of work. Others don’t. Research the companies offering internships before accepting an offer.

Mark Soto
Mark Soto works for a family-owned company, RoofingMKE, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He has comprehensive knowledge of roof installation, repair and replacement and gutter installation. Mark comes from a family of DIYers and has worked with landscapers, plumbers, painters, and damage restoration specialists.