As the demand for skilled workers continues to rise across the country many young people are moving towards apprenticeships for future work. In Illinois, business representatives have seen over 100 new apprentices enroll over the last two years and they believe that trend will continue into the future.
“It made people do a lot of reflecting. Not everybody’s cut out for college. I wasn’t. That’s why I’m here,” Watchinski said. “Unfortunately, a lot of schools did away with their shop programs in the 1990s, to make way for computer labs, because that was the latest greatest thing coming up and we had to get people trained in that. You can’t fault the school districts. But with baby boomers retiring, there’s a need to fill these spots. And they’re good-paying jobs with good benefits.”Watchinski said the new recruits are coming from all corners of the economy. “Today we had a 19-year-old kid with zero experience (come in). We had a woman come in with her infant child that was looking for a job with benefits so she could make it on her own. We had a guy with 15 years of welding experience who wanted to branch out, as he topped out at the factory he was in.
The average age of apprentices in the past few years has hovered around 26 though industry leaders hope that number starts to drop as new initiatives continue to pop up across the country. The program sees participants complete around 640 hours of on-the-job training over a four-year span.