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Apprenticeship training transforms lives while creating skilled workers for industry

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If you want to understand how effective apprenticeship training is in creating skilled workers while providing tremendous opportunities for dedicated men and women, just listen to my story.

Throughout their four years, apprentices and craft trainees at the ABC San Diego Training Academy attend a variety of workshops and demonstrations, like the TEGG experiments performed here by ABC instructor, Lee Donahue with Laser Electric. Donahue graduated almost two years ago from the ABC program.

In 2000, I entered the San Diego Associated Builders and Contractor's Electrical Apprenticeship Program. For the next four years I worked full time at Laser Electric Inc., getting 8,000 hours of on-the-job training. Two nights a week, I attended classes where I received the benefit of outstanding textbook and hands-on training in the lab.

When I graduated almost two years ago, I was a highly-trained journeyman prepared to begin providing a return on my company's considerable investment in me. My first week I was put in charge of a new electrician's program and six months later I was promoted to management.

Today, as service operations manager, I conduct high-end electrical analysis, including use of infrared imaging, while helping provide solutions to customer problems through our service department. I'm also involved in sales, Internet technology and serve as our company's safety officer.

As an apprenticeship graduate, am I unusual? Actually, I'm pretty typical of the highly motivated craftspeople coming out of ABC's apprenticeship programs. I know that because I've been an instructor in the electrical program for a year now and have day-to-day contact with the apprentices.

Like many of my ABC associates, I was motivated to become an instructor because I wanted to give back something to the industry - and trade - that's been good to me. What my experience as an instructor has given me is a unique perspective on the kind of people who enter ABC's apprenticeship programs.

I've seen that while the construction industry may suffer from a shortage of skilled workers, there is no shortage of those who want to learn a trade. I see people of all ages and from all walks of life enter apprenticeship training, some with experience, others who are practically starting from scratch.

As you can imagine, their motivation levels and attitudes also vary widely. It doesn't take long, however, for all the apprentices to realize they're in an extremely rigorous training program that will make them work harder than they've probably ever had to work before.

And they always rise to the challenge. They see, as I did, that apprenticeship offers them more than training for a job. It's providing them the chance for a successful career, whether they decide to focus on being the best craftspeople possible or use their training as a springboard for other opportunities.

The best thing about ABC's apprenticeship training is that it's a true win-win situation. It benefits everyone who graduates while providing the construction industry with highly trained workers who are confident of their skills, take pride in their work and are eager to help their companies grow and prosper.

Donahue is an Electrical Apprenticeship Instructor with ABC and a service operations manager for Laser Electric Inc.

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