Gateway to a Career in the Skilled Trades
Apprenticeships combine on-the-job training with a rigorous course of study after hours, for a period of 4 ½ to 5 years. Depending on the trade, apprentices complete a curriculum at Washtenaw Community College, IBEW Local 252, or UA Local 190. They must get a “B” grade or better in all their classes to remain in the program.
On the job, all apprentices are partnered with and evaluated by a variety of tradespersons throughout their apprenticeship. The Joint Apprenticeship Committee, which consists of elected Skilled Trades representatives and management representatives, oversees the program.
Two major goals of the program are to provide a path for career development and to meet the succession needs caused by the aging demographic profile of the Skilled Trades Workers. Having apprentices work with experienced journeypersons will provide them not only with the technical knowledge and skills of their particular trades, but also invaluable knowledge of University systems gained by many years of work experience. The passing on of this knowledge to the next generation of tradespersons can clearly be of great benefit to the University.
The program provides a great opportunity for career advancement for U-M employees. The positions go exclusively to internal University candidates, rewarding highly-motivated employees who have taken the initiative for their own education and advancement, and who have demonstrated excellent work habits.
To get an apprenticeship position, employees first must apply for the position when posted (January-February each year). Internal U-M applicants then complete a mechanical aptitude exam. High scorers on the exam are interviewed by the Joint Apprenticeship Committee, who narrow down the pool of applicants and recommend a group of finalists to the hiring foreman’s selection panel. This panel conducts a second interview and makes the final selection. Finalists not chosen for a particular position remain in the pool and are eligible for consideration for subsequent positions.
As you may imagine, the apprentice vacancies are highly sought-after, and the competition for them is intense. How can candidates distinguish themselves from the pack and increase their chances of being selected? Most successful candidates have taken it upon themselves to enroll in trades-related coursework at a community college before entry into the program. Others apply for the EWOCS program for an opportunity to take trades classes, gain mechanical job skills, and possibly become Maintenance Mechanics.
At worst, this strategy will help advance skills, demonstrate ability to succeed in college classes, and show a commitment to learning and improvement. It may lead to advancement as a Maintenance Mechanic, certification in a trade, and advancement towards an Associate’s Degree. At best, it may prove to be the deciding factor in being selected for an apprentice position at the University of Michigan.
~Eugene Weincouff, Training Specialist Senior