Education, Technical, Technology, Personal Development, Scholarships, Tips/Advice, Training, Construction, People, new initiativesAs they transition back into civilian life, Post 9/11 G.I. Bill eligible veterans are increasingly choosing earn-while-you-learn skilled trade apprenticeships over the pursuit of traditional college degrees. Here are 8 reasons why you should consider continuing a career in the trades (or make learning a trade your next career move) and how to use your G.I. Bill while making the transition.

 

  1. You already have done this! If you were in a technical role in the military, this is familiar territory. The military has its own version of an apprentice program for its skilled trades and technical occupations. Many of the skills learned while in the military are transferable to the civilian skilled trade sector. Some trades will offer a modified apprentice program, which reduces the required time to acquire your journeyman’s license or designation due to the previous military experience, if in the same trade.

 

  1. Help with housing! For some, the thought of having to go through another “apprenticeship” is daunting and would create a financial strain. The Post 9/11 G.I. Bill, the Montgomery G.I. Bill and other National Guard and Reserve educational programs can be applied to an accredited apprenticeship. The benefits vary but most qualified programs offer a monthly allowance for housing, in addition to the earned wages during the program. The allowances are dependent on the program and location. You can visit VA Education & Training Rate Tables for a full rundown of the most current financial benefits being offered. Also check out this On-the-Job FAQ that helps explain how the monthly allowances work during your apprenticeship.

 

  1. Get paid to learn! Yes, that’s right! You get paid to learn a trade. You will have the opportunity to earn wages during your apprenticeship. These wages will increase during the duration of the apprenticeship, and are dependent on which trade you decide to enter and whether you join a union. Future earning potential is also dependent on the area in which you reside. Many trades have minimum wage rates set by the states and federal agencies. Union trades are determined by the local union’s collective bargaining agreements. For more information about how unions work, visit unionplus.org.

 

  1. Lots of job opportunities! According to the Department of Labor, there are nearly 29,000 Registered Apprenticeship program sponsors representing more than 250,000 employers across the country. There is a real shortage of skilled labor in the U.S. SkillsUSA.org states that 10 million new skilled workers will be needed by 2020 and 600,000 skilled jobs are currently going unfilled. There are so many programs to help transitioning veterans find a second career. Programs like Helmets to Hardhats and Veterans in Piping help veterans find the right careers in the construction industry. Other resources like the Mike Rowe Works Foundation and Troops to Trades offer scholarships to help offset financial burdens during apprenticeships.

 

  1. Many career paths! Even if you are not sure what you want to do, there are so many options for apprenticeships. Are you good with people? Become certified in hotel management! Want to save lives? Join your local police force! Love travel? Learn to be a passenger engineer for Amtrak! Want to be a builder? Check out all the building trades! As you can see, there are so many options for qualified apprenticeships across the nation.

 

  1. More money! Statistics show college students are averaging five to six years to graduate and then another six months to a year to find a job. Compare that to three-to-four-year, earn-while-you-learn skilled trade apprenticeships with starting salaries that match or exceed those of new college graduates. Plus, you have the added advantage of avoiding any student loan debt. There are a lot of misconceptions about working in the trades and not being able to make a living financially is one of them. Do your research and see just how much one can make in a year. In some regions of the country, high-demand trades such as plumbers and electricians can make six-figure incomes as journeymen.

 

  1. You have the smarts! There are many misconceptions about skilled labor. Many still believe if you go into a skilled trade you have to fit the “blue collar” stereotypes or that a skilled trade career is only for the uneducated. This could not be further from the truth. Workers in the skilled trades, more than ever, have to be highly intelligent and educated in their field. With the growth of technology and AI, there is an increasing STEM focus in on-the-job training programs. Many skilled trades are dependent on learning technology platforms as part of their day-to-day activities. Some even include needing to be skilled in C++ coding techniques.

 

  1. Making a difference! There are so many reasons why as a transitioning veteran you should consider a career in a skilled trade, but most importantly, is to continue what you started in the military, and keep making a difference for our country. Skilled jobs are the backbone of our American infrastructure and we need more skilled labor to keep our country functioning. Keep making a difference and have an impact beyond your desk and consider a trade!

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  • Wendy Montgomery

    Senior Manager of Talent Management

    As the Senior Manager of Talent Management for Southland Industries, Wendy Montgomery is responsible for developing and executing organizational workforce planning, employee engagement and talent acquisition strategies. Her primary goal is to ensure all current and future employees fully experience Southland’s PeopleFirst model. This model outlines Southland’s commitment to three primary people focuses —engagement, planning and development— and allows them to attract and retain the best talent in their industry.

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