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Once you wrap up your senior exams and throw your graduation cap in the air, you are faced with many choices as you leave high school. Some of your classmates may go to college to learn about a new field, while others may go directly into the workforce to pursue their passion. There is no one right way to approach your career pathway. If you prefer a hands-on approach to learning, then apprenticeships could be the right fit for you.

Apprenticeship Basics

Apprenticeships train practitioners to learn a skilled trade, such as automotive mechanics, carpentry, plumbing and machinery. For example, a Northeast Florida company, Miller Electric, offers data analyst apprenticeships, electrical apprenticeships and a recently-launched project manager apprenticeship.

A key benefit of apprenticeships is that they provide on-the-job training. Oftentimes, hands-on apprenticeship training will be supplemented by employer-driven education. Graduates of registered apprenticeship programs receive a nationally recognized Certificate of Apprenticeship from the Florida Department of Education. While this credential can open up job opportunities for program graduates, employers who lead apprenticeship programs will often extend job offers to their trainees upon completion.

Other Avenues for Job Experience

Informational Interview

Before you decide to pursue an apprenticeship—or any educational or career pathway for that matter—it is helpful to learn from someone who has experience in your field of interest. A conversation with an employee in your desired role, called an informational interview, can solidify the next steps in your career journey. Use your personal network, school guidance counselor or a company’s website to help secure the interview. Once you are introduced, request a time frame to meet—typically 30 minutes to one hour.

The goal of an informational interview is to learn more about the industry, your role of interest and how you can most effectively achieve your goals. Interview prompts include:

  • What training would you recommend for this role? Did you complete an apprenticeship or other post-secondary program to help you get this job?
  • What does your typical day look like?
  • What opportunities exist for career advancement and continued education?
  • What qualities does an ideal employee in this role possess?
  • Is this company currently offering any apprenticeships or training opportunities that you would recommend for me?

Job Shadowing

If the informational interview sparked your interest, ask the interviewee if you may shadow them on the job. Job shadowing is a common way to gain a first-person point of view of day-to-day tasks and how your time would be spent. It is also helpful to connect with professionals in the field. Job shadowing helps you quickly learn if the job excites you, possible areas of growth and how to be successful in that role. This is a great experience to list on your resume or mention in an interview. A future employer will be excited to know that you have a grasp of the role and that you are an eager learner.

Experience is Key

Whether you choose to start your career journey by talking with a professional, shadowing a day on the job or gaining practical experience through an apprenticeship, the key is to get experience that helps you grow as a future employee. Earn Up, Apprenticeship Florida and CareerSource Northeast Florida are excellent resources to access as you explore different pathways and search for the next best step toward your future.