Just because you’ve completed your education doesn’t necessarily mean you’re ready to enter the workforce. School can pack your brain full of knowledge, but most education programs don’t teach their students the skills they need to be successful in their chosen careers. Even students with top grades won’t be as attractive to potential employers as candidates who already have the skills necessary to do their new job, so how can candidates who are just graduating compete with more skilled candidates?

For some, the answer is apprenticeships. An apprenticeship, otherwise known as vocational training, is like an internship, but with some key differences. While some internships are paid, many of them are unpaid positions that students and graduates use to gain experience and connections in the industry. An unpaid internship might be the right choice for someone who’s still living with their parents or has another way to pay the bills, but what if you need to earn a living while getting your training?

An apprenticeship is the perfect option for a lot of people because it allows them to earn a living and gain skills and experience at the same time. You don’t have to put your life on hold while you get an education for the career you want. Instead, you can work alongside professionals in your chosen industry who will show you the ropes and also pay you for your time and work.

An apprenticeship also lasts longer than an internship. While internships generally last a few months, an apprenticeship usually lasts 1-4 years. This is beneficial for those who are looking for some stability in their employment while they gain vital skills and experience for their industry.

If it turns out to be a good fit with you and the employer you do your apprenticeship with, you may even have a position waiting for you when you finish your training. Not only will they have provided you with all the skills you need to be successful in your new position, but they will also have trained you to do things the way they like to do them. Plus you’ll already be familiar with their company, their colleagues, and their customers, so hiring you as a new employee benefits everyone.

In the U.S. there are some schools that offer a combination of classes and vocational training, so looking into these schools and making sure they have a good reputation with both students and employers before you apply is a good idea. Also keep in mind that not all industries offer apprenticeships, so before you decide you want to do one, consider your ideal profession first and do some research to see if vocational training is an option.

The industries that most commonly offer apprenticeships are the jobs that require a certain set of skills, but don’t necessarily require much formal education. Some of the industries that most commonly offer vocational training are: construction, manufacturing, food service, plumbing, accounting/bookkeeping, cosmetology, IT support, transportation, and mechanics. If your dream job is in any one of these industries, consider vocational training as a way to get there.

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