6 answers

Should I do an apprenticeship?

Updated Boise, Idaho

Recently there's been an apprentice program for a train company. The way their program works is that I would do it every other day. Basically, I go to school one day, and the apprenticeship another day. I don't know if I should do it because then I would have to quit all of my electives (Band, NJROTC, etc). My school only has four periods in a day, so I would only be able to take core classes. I want to be an engineer, preferably in Robotics or Aerospace. The program could be beneficial, but it's not a career that I would want to stay in, but I would gain experience,
in assembly, manufacturing, and electronics. Plus it pays $17/hour. What's my best option? Thanks!
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6 answers

Glenn’s Answer

Rod made some good points. Apprentice programs are a great way to gain real world experience. They are more common in the UK than in the US. In the US, they are typically called internship programs. That may be better for a google search. You can also reach out to companies in you area to see if they would consider you for an internship, even it they do not have one already.

You are unclear as to what you would be doing and learning as an apprentice. It may or may not be relevant. Having an apprenticeship on your application may help you get into the school of your choice. However, the elective classes (especially music) may also show you as a well balanced individual.

Glenn recommends the following next steps:

  • verify what is the scope of the apprentice program
  • Look for internships. This can be a well established program or a position created just for you
  • contact companies in your area that is working in an area of your interests. Let them know you are interested in studying engineering with a focus on their area of capabilities. Ask for any position, paid or unpaid, to work there.

G. Mark’s Answer


My opinion is "absolutely". I teach several classes in universities in China that are intended to supplement university courses with practical training. Universities provide students with a vast amount of information that smart people all over the world and through history have already discovered and recorded. When a student gets a job, they most likely will not be asked to solve a problem whose solution already has been documented by some expert in a book. It's possible, of course, but the biggest value to any organization -- company, charity or even family -- is solving a problem for which the solution has not been found yet. An apprenticeship exposes you to that environment. When I was a young engineer, I was given a problem to solve using computer logic. I got out my Karnaugh maps and Green theorems and charts and such and put together a matrix of solutions. My boss at the time asked me why I wasted all that time on it since it already existed and was written down. I was thinking that that would be "cheating". And it dawned on me that re-inventing the wheel might prove I was a smart guy, but it was indeed a waste of time. Had I had an internship before that, I would have realized that much sooner because I would have been thrust into the corporate world where the goal was not to prove how smart you were. The company I was at only hired "smart people", so I was not about to impress anyone with remembering stuff from school. It was assumed I had already mastered that. The goal was to solve a problem in the most effective and efficient way. And internship will get you several benefits. First, it will expose you to the practical realities of solving problems to make people happy. Second, it will get you comfortable in that atmosphere so you can understand your purpose and focus on the job at hand. Third, it will expose you to people who are good at what they do and can help you be good too, and likely get you contacts and make more progress in your career. Fourth, it will tell you if you really want to do this, and if not, what you actually do want to focus on or specialize in. And fifth -- not to be underestimated -- you will likely make a bit extra cash to make life easier outside work. And having fun while doing all this is pretty cool.</code>

Fernando’s Answer

Updated Mexico City, Mexico

Hi Christian,

First of all let me tell you that you should feel very proud of having the idea of doing an apprenticeship, because in my experience it gave me the opportunity to understand some of the key aspects at the moment of an interview.

Aftab’s Answer

Updated Torrance, California

Hello Christian,

it is always prudent to ask your parents, teachers and others before you make decisions about your career path.

Outside school programs expose you to real outside world and if anything, may allow you you to self explore your own self. If you pick up this apprenticeship of piloting the train, you will miss your electives and your credits which may make you fall short of your credits to graduate. If that is not the case and this apprenticeship is not inconvenient times, distraction and consuming too much of your energy, then it will allow you to become more knowledgeable and confident and know more people around you. I will perhaps take this offer. Good luck

Rod’s Answer

Updated United Kingdom

Apprenticeship programmes are great ways of gaining experience as an engineer but they are not the only ways. I am a chartered engineer in the UK and I gained my experience during my vacations and in my first jobs after college. It sounds like the train company apprenticeship is not really for you. In a separate post you have said you want to be a robotics or aerospace engineer and serve in the military. They are the things to focus on.

Rod recommends the following next steps:

  • Look for other apprenticeships and if there isn't one look for other ways of picking up experiences.

Ernie’s Answer

Updated Newtown Square, Pennsylvania

Hello Christian,

I assume you are looking at trading college credits toward an engineering degree for work experience at a train company and you are looking to major in Robotics or Aerospace. I have a contrary point of view on this topic, but let me explain. Getting any type of engineering experience prior to graduation is a great plus to understand what you really want to major in the broader engineering field and hopefully land a better job after graduation. What I am concerned about as others have mentioned, but not addressed in detail, is the loss of classroom credits. Not taking a full load of classes to gain work experience, in my opinion, is not a good trade. Especially, if the work experience is not directly in your major field of study. The work experience is good, but I believe you are giving up the chance to graduate in 4 years instead of 5 or 6 years working at a much lower wage than what you will earn when you graduate. Stretching your educational years out for extra years will cost you (or your parents) significantly more money to get your education completed. It is not just the cost of the courses that you did not take. You will have living expenses for any additional time spent in school. I am a big believer of getting your education done as quickly as possible to land that first job and let your employer pay for any further education you wish to gain to increase your worth to the current employer or the next employer after. I think a happy medium would be to gain some type of apprenticeship or internship between summer sessions. Skip the time off for the summer and take a job in a field you believe you are interested in. During my Junior and Senior years at engineering school, I worked for an Electrical Engineering company for the summer. I got paid a fair wage and provided engineering to their Methods Engineering Department. I learned a lot during those three months. I learned what a Methods Engineer does, day in day out. I got to experience the corporate culture, the purchasing department, Design Engineering and many other fields of engineering I did not even know existed. After graduation, this company provided an offer that I decided was not exactly what I was looking for. I took my first job for a large Industrial Company that I did not really like either. I worked there a little over a year before moving on. I learned a lot, but I knew what I did not want to do. It took me two more jobs and two more years before I found my perfect job. Finally, I began working for Lockheed Martin for the next 35 years. After settling in with Lockheed Martin, I now knew what I really wanted to do. Lockheed Martin helped me with my further education at night for a number of years. I ended up getting my Master Degree in Industrial Engineering with a major in Computer Systems Engineering. I would not change a thing. Working for a large Defense Aerospace company was never boring. I worked on many exciting and trans-formative things. I wish you well and hope you find the right job for you. Hopefully, you will be able to combine your passion for Aerospace and Robotics with next robotic lander for Mars or command robots on the other side of the world or design robots to provide universal security and police presence around the globe. Get a good education, find a summer internship in your field of interest, get that first job and some relevant experience. Good luck young man, make us proud.