From the very first year of the sheet metal apprenticeship program at the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC), students jump right in to the sheet metal industry with time spent on job sites and OSHA 30 training. They even obtain a fire smoke damper technician certification.

But that's just the beginning of the journey, says Joshua Moore, the coordinator of Apprenticeship and Training for the Sheet Metal Workers Local Union 12. Local 12 has been collaborating with CCAC for more than 25 years to provide students on-the-job training during this free five-year program, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Currently, 197 apprentices are enrolled in the program, Moore says. These students will receive 49 college credits from CCAC during their time as apprentices. Students attend classes five weeks a year. In addition to that, they spend 200 hours a year at the training center. They will go to school for one week, work for 6-8 weeks, then head back to school for one week — and this continues for five rounds, Moore notes.

At the onset of the apprenticeship, apprentices will earn $22.36 per hour will full benefits (which includes medical, dental and vision). They do not receive annuities or pension until their third year as an apprentice, Moore notes. Instead, that additional money goes into the apprentice's paycheck because usually the apprentices are just getting started so they need all the money they can get.

By the third year, apprentices start to contribute to their annuities.

"After that 5 years, you're out of your apprenticeship. You become a journey person and then the sky's the limit," he says. "That card goes anywhere. We cover America and Canada. You can really go anywhere where there is work."

After the apprenticeship is complete, Local 12 offers continued benefits, Moore notes, including a SASMI account. It's an account for a sheet metal worker that becomes unemployed.

"It's their money that they put into that fund on an hourly basis – and they can pull from that fund to pay for medical benefits if they've run out of hours in their job bank and they need to fulfill their funds to maintain their insurance. They can also pull that money to supplement their income, which is really nice," he says.

If you use the fund very little or don't use it, that money is yours at your retirement.

When it comes to success as a journeyperson, continued education is key. After all, the sheet metal industry — like many others — is always changing.

"We have to keep you trained in order to keep that pay. We have to maintain those certifications, we have to maintain those qualifications," he says.

This is why they offer journeyperson classes and continued education for those apprentices when they have moved on.

Interested in this sheet metal apprenticeship? Students can apply year round, but apprentices are brought in on July 1. The year runs July 1-June 30, he notes, and the application deadline is usually the end of February. Interviews are conducted in April and they'll bring the apprentices in for orientation in June before they begin work on July 1. Placement testing is conducted through CCAC.

A limited apprenticeship, for those who don't attend school yet, is also offered. Those individuals can receive $15 per hour with full benefits. It's ideal for a kid just coming out of high school with no construction experience, he notes.

"That's a great program to get into."

For more information on CCAC's apprenticeship program, or to apply, visit the sheet metal workers Local Union 12 website.

Photos courtesy of Community College of Allegheny County