If you ask Schuyler Worthey, the organizer for Sheet Metal Workers Local 85, Atlanta, Georgia is full of opportunities for those interested in pursuing an HVAC career. 

That's why Local 85 is encouraging future journeymen to join their apprenticeship program, which allows apprentices to earn as they learn. 

"We are taking everybody we can get right now," says Worthey, who has been in the trade since 2008 and organizes the group's HVAC apprenticeship program.

The program, which currently has 258 apprentices enrolled, in addition to 96 helpers who are enrolled, gives apprentices a leg up on the competition by providing training and education through the Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee, also known as the JATC. Unlike many other apprenticeship programs, Local 85's program is done solely in-house. The group doesn't partner with any local institution for its education portion. Instead, "all of our apprenticeship and training is inside," Worthey notes, in order to "protect the craft" and keep future journeymen working for the union versus a non-union company. 

In addition to on-the-job training, apprentices will attend school one night per week for four years. The program runs on almost the same calendar as the public school district — with the exception of spring break, so students can expect to be in class during a typical school year. First year apprentices will attend class on Monday, while second year apprentices will attend on Tuesday — and so on. 

"We have career paths, so coming in for the first two years, everybody pretty much does the same stuff in school, which is going to be our history and they are going to get a lot of layout fittings and fabricate fittings," he says. "Our craft right now is the only craft where we still have to make our product from raw material."

During their times in the program, apprentices will see a 10% pay increase each year. In addition, "the schooling is paid for by the contractor, so it's a free education path to go down. Once they finish our program, they don't own any debt in student loans," Worthey says. 

Interested in applying for Local 85's apprenticeship program? Apply online through the JATC website. 

"Applicants can actually go to work immediately, so it is an earn-while-you-learn program," Worthey says. "They will take an aptitude test and the aptitude test basically is going to have them ranked as far as generally knowledge, based on mostly math."

Local 85 starts doing interviews for the upcoming school year around April or May — through July. School starts the first or second week or August and it runs on the same calendar as far as holidays goes, with the exception of spring break. Apprentices are out of school for summer break during June and July. 

For more information on the Georgia Sheet Metal JATC, visit them online.