How Can I Learn a Trade? Internships, Technical Education, and More
InternshipsDuring an internship — preferably with an employer in a career or job you’re interested in — you’ll receive hands-on work experience, training, and mentoring. You’ll gain realistic information about the demands of the work and the skills required. You can experiment with various kinds of accommodations to see what you would need to be successful in this work. You can also practice your communication skills by conversing with coworkers as well as supervisors and managers. A good topic might be your learning disability (LD) and how it relates to your job skills. If your LD does create difficulties for you, you can arrange for a problem-solving conversation with your manager or supervisor. Together, discuss: What kinds of accommodations might help you? Can this job provide the accommodations you need?
Internships are typically offered for fixed periods of time, from a few weeks to a year. If you’re in school, you may find an internship during the summer or for a semester. Many businesses welcome interns. Some internships come with opportunities to earn course credit, and some offer a stipend or salary. You might attend classes in the morning and then spend several afternoons a week as an intern at a daycare center, auto body shop, library, or other workplace. A longer internship with a large employer — such as a local hospital — may allow you to rotate from one job assignment to another every few months, giving you the chance to try different jobs and develop a range of skills.
ApprenticeshipsIf you'd like to learn a particular skill or trade through hands-on experience, an apprenticeship program may be an option worth considering. As an apprentice, you’ll get extended training under the supervision of experienced workers in skilled trades, such as cabinetry, plumbing, printmaking, and electronics. Usually, an apprentice makes an agreement with the employer to continue working for a specified period of time after the apprenticeship.
Career and Technical EducationIf you want more education after high school, but not at a traditional college or university, investigate career and technical education, also known as vocational education. These programs prepare you for employment, offering specialized, practical education. You can learn entry-level job skills — for example, factory work — as well as prepare for a wide range of skilled trades. Examples include carpenter, pipe fitter, mason, medical or veterinary technician, dental or nursing assistant,and computer programmer.
Many manufacturers are looking for skilled workers — machinists, welders, computer operators — to meet changing production needs. Some public community and technical colleges have formed partnerships with local industries. These schools aim to supply skilled workers for such fields as high-tech manufacturing, health care, and electronics.
Where to Find ProgramsThe program you select depends on the requirements for the job or career you’re interested in. Some programs are publicly funded, and some are private. Your community may offer career and technical education at:
- Community and junior colleges. At two-year community and junior colleges, you can either take courses to train for a particular job or career, or combine job training with liberal arts requirements for an associate’s two-year degree.
- Two-year technical colleges. These schools offer certificate and degree programs in specific fields, such as business management, insurance, law enforcement, animal health, automotive maintenance, graphic communications, and social services. Technical institutes stress skills training and hands-on experience.
- Vocational-technical centers and career centers. These centers usually offer training in a wide range of careers. After you complete a course of study, you will earn a certificate in a specific field.
Get the Information You NeedThere are various ways to find out about local internship and apprenticeship programs. You can call your nearest state employment office. You can also call the nearest office of the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training.
The website www.careeronestop.org is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. It is an excellent source of information about job training and employment. The website includes a community college finder, a short-term training finder, an education and training finder, and much more. If you click “Education and Training” and then “Apprenticeship,” you’ll find a page with information about registered apprenticeship programs in your state, a video about apprenticeships, and other helpful tools. On the “Get Work Experience” page of the website, you’ll see links to lists of internships (in government and in private companies) and apprenticeships, as well as information about how to start your job search.
Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs)Career and technical student organizations are open to students in secondary and postsecondary schools who are interested in specific trades or careers. Belonging to a CTSO gives you the opportunity to network with other students and with professionals around the country. Many offer scholarships, leadership training, help with job placement, and other services.
Examples of the many CTSOs open to postsecondary students include:
- Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA): preparing for careers in marketing, management, and entrepreneurship
- National Future Farmers of America (NFFA) and National Postsecondary Agricultural Student Organization (PAS): preparing for careers in agricultural fields such as horticulture, forestry, and agribusiness
- National Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA): preparing for careers in health services
- Technology Student Association (TSA, formerly AIASA): preparing for careers in technology
Once you decide on a career or job you’d like to prepare for, you’ll find lots of ways to learn the skills you need. Internships, apprenticeships, and career and technical schools all offer training that will help you build your marketable skills. This training may lead to a satisfying job in which you can be successful.
Bonnie Z. Goldsmith has worked in the field of education throughout her professional life. She has wide experience as a writer, editor, and teacher.