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CBS News Piece Highlights the Value of Boston Sheet Metal Workers’ Apprenticeship Program

As more and more American students graduate college armed with degrees, large debt, and cloudy job prospects, the value of union apprenticeship is becoming clearer. Many young adults are beginning to doubt the ability of a bachelor’s degree to guarantee a path to a solid, middle class life.

CBS News recently published an article, “Apprenticeships better than college for some”, in which they look into the decision by 18-year old Alfred Santana, who grew up in pubic housing in south Boston and could not afford college, to enter into a union apprenticeship program. There are currently 400,000 apprentices in the U.S., compared with 1.7 million graduating from college this May.

The apprenticeship was Santana’s best chance at achieving the American Dream and will leave him with a good paying job instead of debt upon completion:

I feel very good. I feel very good. I feel I have my career, a good career ahead of myself and I fell like I might have a good life,” Santana said.

Santana is one of nearly 400,000 apprentices in trades throughout the United States. He works at a sheet metal shop outside Boston.

“Roughly when I get out of my apprenticeship time as a fifth year, I’ll be making 50-, 60-grand,” Santana said.

When he’s done, Santana will only be 22, around the same age as a college graduate.

“It’s also nice not to have student loans,” Santana said.

Apprentices – like those at Boston’s Sheet Metal Workers Union Local Seventeen training center – spend 200 hours in the classroom and 1,800 hours per year working for local companies. It takes five years. They get annual pay raises and the union pays for.

Apprenticeships are not just for those leaving high school, however. The CBS News report also looked at the decision of former Chef Mike Burns. Burns switched careers looking to better his family’s future:

“You can make a great middle class living and provide for your family and have a nice house doing an apprenticeship program,” Burns said.

Moreover, apprentices are vital in assuring there will be no skilled worker shortage in the future.

Kevin Gill, who owns a sheet metal shop near Boston, said: “The apprentices are extremely important to us. They’re the absolute future of our company.”

Gill’s sheet metal shop makes air and heat ducts. He employs 20 apprentices and 100 fully qualified workers.

“We closely evaluate our apprentices. We identify the future foremen that come from our apprenticeship program,” Gill said.

Read the entire CBS piece HERE.


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