What to Look for in an Apprenticeship Program

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Whether you’re a recent graduate or looking for a career change, paid apprenticeship programs are a great way to get on-the-job training while still making a living wage. Here’s what to look for in an apprenticeship program.

What is an Apprenticeship Program?

Also known as dual-training programs, an apprenticeship is a career pathway where employers train an individual in a specific skilled trade. Apprenticeship programs tend to be paid positions that combine in-class learning, on-the-job training, and mentorship opportunities, and they often lead to a long-term position at the company.

Internships Vs. Apprenticeships

Unlike apprenticeships, which offer wholistic training, internships tend to be focused on learning a specific skill in a job setting. They’re generally shorter, they tend to lack the classroom instruction component, and they aren’t necessarily a pathway to a long-term job. They’re also often low or unpaid.

What to Look for in an Apprenticeship Program

While apprenticeships aren’t as popular in the US as they are in Europe, fields like engineering, construction, plumbing, and commodity trading tend to have more apprenticeship opportunities. Here’s what to look for in an apprenticeship program before making your decision.

Compensation Amount

Unlike internships, which tend to provide a small stipend if they even pay at all, apprenticeships generally provide a competitive salary. While you’ll obviously make less money than people further along in their career, fair and competitive pay should be a consideration when you’re deciding whether or not to apply for an apprenticeship program. AIFP’s trader apprenticeship program, for example, includes a competitive payment structure. Once you become a full-time trader and have developed a more solid customer base, you’ll move to our commission-only payment structure where you’ll have unlimited earning potential.

Program Length

When you’re considering different companies with apprenticeship programs, it’s important to consider the program’s length. Depending on your personality and skill level, you may prefer a shorter, fast-paced apprenticeship program or a longer, more casually paced program. At AIFP, for example, our paid trader training program only lasts a year, which gives our trainees plenty of time to learn the tricks of the trade but puts them on a fast track toward earning a higher salary through our commission-only payment structure.

Program Structure

Different paid apprenticeship programs have different structures that can make them better or worse suited for your learning style and personality. You’ll want to ask questions about how things are structured before committing to an apprenticeship program to make sure that it’s the right program for you. That said, most programs involve some combination of in-class instruction and on-the-job training, though the proportions may vary.


Reputation can be incredibly important when deciding between companies with apprenticeship programs, especially if you hope to quickly climb the ranks in your field. Because most successful apprenticeships end with a full-time position, you’re not just choosing where you’ll gain your formative apprenticeship experience, but where you’ll be working for at least the first few years of your career. At AIFP, our traders work on the largest trading floor in North America at one of the largest building products wholesale organizations in the country. Plus, our average tenure is 15-16 years, which reflects how well we treat our team.

Career Opportunities

The end goal of a paid apprenticeship program is typically a full-time position at the company offering the apprenticeship. That’s why it’s so important to make sure to choose an apprenticeship based not just on the program itself, but the position you’ll receive once the apprenticeship is over. At AIFP, for example, our paid apprentices end up with a full-time, commission-only position at one of the best places to work in Portland. Now that you know what to look for in an apprenticeship program, you should look into our one-year, paid trader training program, where you’ll learn everything you need to know about the lumber industry and commodity trading. In the meantime, check out our blog where we cover everything from business email etiquette tips for recent grads to what it’s like to work at AIFP.

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