Apprenticeships offer a mix of education and hands-on training — all while earning a salary. Those who want to enter the signatory sheet metal industry will have to complete an apprenticeship. When it comes to what to expect, Jeff Reinhardt, executive administrator at Western Washington Sheet Metal JATC, offers insight. 

"It's a paid education, so they're working for the contractor — getting paid learning the craft working under a journeyman and then they come into  our training center for what we call related supplemental instruction."

They'll learn about the theory behind the trade and then get out in the field to learn how to apply their teachings to real-life, on the job scenarios. 

"We do 10% of their education here in the JATC, and the 90% of their education is done out in the field," he says. "You know, we're a hands-on trade so that's the best way to learn it."

Apprentices are recruited in a number of ways, including through high school job fairs, career expos and the Heavy Metal Summer Experience through Hermanson Company, LLP. 

"And then we have other pre-apprenticeships that are a new way to enter the trade. It's a pre-apprenticeship that we have a pipeline from which we recruit about 150 apprentices annually. 

Apprentices start out making $27 per hour and as long as they meet their criteria, they will see a 5% increase every six months. 

"At the end of it, they're considered a journeyman and they're registered with the state of Washington as a recognized journeyman. And at this point, they're making about $60 an hour on their check."

They are also registered with Bates Technical College while they're in the apprenticeship, so they're earning credits towards an associate's degree.

To make sure that apprentices are prepared for the ever-changing technology in the field, they'll get special training in their third year. 

"Technology's changed a lot with construction now to where we're doing a lot with AutoCAD," he adds. "So, in the third year of their apprenticeship, they start learning AutoCAD Revit blue beam, and that's what they use instead of hand drafting. At that point, everything goes to all computer-aided stuff, and then we touch a little bit on robotic tools for on the job sites, touch a little on 3d scanners, and different things like that."