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Apprenticeship training changes lives

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One of the best ways to master a skill is to learn from an experienced craftsperson. The problem for many individuals entering the construction industry, however, is finding a skilled mentor to teach them a trade, which sometimes forces them to settle for a career they may not enjoy.

The San Diego Training Academy hands-on lab allows students to perform a variety of projects, simulating actual worksites. This process give students an opportunity to practice the skills they are learning before they are required to perform these tasks in the field.

Brendon Lombardi, an apprentice with Can-Do Electric, worked in cement mixing and pouring before he heard about San Diego's Associated Builders and Contactors Inc. (ABC).

"Before I got into ABC, I didn't really know what I wanted to do," Lombardi said. "I had a job, but it wasn't satisfying and I knew I didn't want to do that kind of work for the long term. Then I heard about the electrical apprenticeship program offered by ABC.

"After talking with the people at ABC, I realized the program offered me a terrific opportunity and future," Lombardi continued. "One of the greatest features of the program is that you can start without any knowledge or skill in the trade, and within a relatively short period of time be learning a skill that you'll have for life."

ABC apprenticeship programs combine career education with extensive on-the-job training and related classroom instruction. Employers participate in the programs as sponsors and employ an apprentice full time in the trade while he or she earns a living and builds a reputation as a skilled, knowledgeable and reliable employee.

Along with these benefits, the ABC apprenticeship programs provide several advantages over informal training for both the apprentice and their sponsor. Qualification for a higher level of pay, certification by the state of California, family medical insurance benefits and lifelong job mobility are just some of the benefits an apprentice will receive while enrolled in one of ABC's apprenticeship programs.

"By the time you complete the three- or four-year program, it is very likely that you will be more skilled than journeymen who have more time in the field, but have not been through similar training," said Bergelectric apprentice Stephen Benedetto, who is currently completing his final year in the program. "I've learned such valuable skills at ABC - skills I can take with me anywhere in the world. That gives me a great sense of security and satisfaction."

Program classes are held two nights per week for 2.5 hours each night. Apprentices' pay generally starts at about 40 percent to 50 percent of the experienced craftsperson and increases throughout the apprenticeship. Candidates for the program are referred to prospective employers once they complete a series of qualifying tests.

"One of the most important benefits gained from being involved in one of the apprenticeship programs is the level of support you have from ABC," Benedetto said. "You always have someone looking out for you, your family and your well-being."

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