Victoria Wilson, a four-year apprentice at Ohio-based T.H. Martin, Inc., has made the most of her time with the company. She’s worked in the shop, in the field and in the office — and she stresses the importance of sticking with it if you want to make the most of your time as an apprentice. 

“It’s not an easy job right off the bat,” Wilson says. “Stay positive. Some things are going to be harder than others.”

While an apprenticeship allows a future journeyperson to receive paid on-the-job training and sets them on the path to career success, not all apprenticeships are created equal — and not every apprentice is successful. 

To help apprentices at Silicon Valley Mechanical be successful, the company’s BIM director Don DeGuzman advises them along the way. 

“I always tell my students, what you put in is what you're going to get out,” he says.

Here, Wilson and DeGuzman offer advice on how to have a successful sheet metal apprenticeship.

Get serious. “There's a ton of knowledge that you can learn,” DeGuzman says. “You know, a lot of these guys are still young, so they're still into the party mode and … and as soon as they get a raise, they're quick to blow their paycheck.” But don’t do that, he says. Instead, save and invest that money. You’ll be better off in the long run.  

Keep a notebook handy. You won’t remember everything you’re learning, so it’s smart to have a notebook with you at all times. 

“You need to understand what they're doing and how they got to their position,” DeGuzman says. “And I tell my students that a lot of the notes I've taken, I have notebooks from the start of my apprenticeship.” You never know when you might need to refer to your notes, he says, “especially on the virtual side, like the CAD and BIM side, there's commands that you won't find easily on YouTube or Google.” Use that notebook to fall back on. 

Ask, listen and learn. It’s something Wilson was hesitant to do starting out, she says, especially as a female in this male-dominated field. But, asking questions is essential. After all, you’re getting facetime with professionals in the industry so it’s the ideal opportunity.

“The ones that realize that there's a lot more to learn, I feel do a lot better,” DeGuzman says. “Like one of my students now he's working on work with me on a project and he's actually one of the leads in the field. And so it's, you know, it's his determination and his, you know, ability to pay attention and learn has brought him to this point.” 

Mistakes happen but shake them off. “You’re still learning so mistakes are inevitable. They are going to happen,” Wilson says. “I’ve measured things wrong. I’ve cut things wrong. There are a ton of different things that you can easily mess up on, but mistakes are the best way to learn.”

Survey says

DeGuzman is a big advocate for SNIPS’ apprenticeship reviews, which gives apprentices the opportunity to compliment or critique the company where they are an apprentice.

“I would just give my students the link, and then tell them, ‘hey, this is kind of like the Yelp for contractors,’ and I just had them fill it out and give them time to do it in class,” he says.

Unfortunately, he adds, depending on the culture of that company, an apprentice may not always be heard, so this is a chance to voice their opinions and possibly have someone within the company take action on their behalf.

“It's a voice for the apprentices,” he says. 

Those interested in submitting their SNIPS apprenticeship review can do so here