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January/February 2020

© Travis King
Apprenticeship Programs for Veterans: Earn A Trade


Apprenticeship programs offer economic opportunities for veterans. This type of training complements a veteran’s military experience by employing the skills acquired in the military: being mission-oriented, disciplined, and being able to work as a team to accomplish a goal.

Apprenticeship puts the trainee on the payroll while learning the skills that can earn good wages. It is a formal contract between an employer and employee. The employee (apprentice) learns a craft while earning income through a combination of on-the-job training and classroom instruction. The apprentice gets hands-on experience and technical knowledge. 

Associated Builders and Contractors—the trade association that represents the non-union construction industry—offers opportunities for veterans in apprenticeships.

ABC chapters and affiliates in some 1,400 locations across the country have more than 800 apprenticeship, craft, safety, and management education programs in 20 different occupations. For more information go to http://workforce.abc.org

Southern California ABC

ABC’s Southern California Chapter represents more than 360 member companies with more than 100 contractors and businesses in Orange County alone. The Southern California Chapter currently has nearly 700 apprentices and more than 500 craft students in training. It graduated 241 students during the 2018-19 school year.

Apprenticeship Programs are available in the electrical, plumbing, low voltage, and sheet metal trades. Safety is a high priority. ABC created its STEP management system in 1989 as a safety tool for construction firms. Implementing STEP best practices—such as substance-abuse programs, toolbox safety meetings, and safety program performance reviews—reduces recordable instances by up to 85 percent, making the best-performance companies 680 percent safer than the industry average.

Carlos Bencomo served in the U.S. Marines Corps in Iraq and is a graduate of ABC who works in Arizona. He said that his military experience was valuable in succeeding in the apprenticeship program. Those skills include meeting baseline expectations, attention to detail, a perspective of what is important in life, and being able to multi-task. He is making a more-than-livable wage without having incurred college debt.

David M. Kelly served as a Navy corpsman and is a current student at ABC in his third year of electrical apprenticeship. His company referred him to ABC. He said his military skills were important, especially attention to detail, which is critical in the electrical field.

For more information on the Southern California Program, go to www.abcsocal.org

Pending legislation, the Veterans in Effective Apprenticeships Act, will improve apprenticeship program coordination between the Department of Labor and the VA. It includes the following:

    • Programs applying to become registered apprenticeships will commit to completing the VA process for obtaining approval for veterans with GI Bill benefits.
    • Apprenticeships will factor in veterans’ service-acquired skills and experiences.
    • DOL will notify the VA about newly registered programs.

Frank Barry chairs VVA’s Economic Opportunities Committee.

© Travis King





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