Learn While You Earn

Pre-apprenticeships, internships and job shadowing provide more than money.

Apprenticeships arrangements in which employers provide on-the-job training and education to produce the highly skilled workforce they need are becoming increasingly prevalent in Florida and around the world.

An apprenticeship can be a great deal. A high school graduate can get a 40-hour-a-week paying job and spend two nights a week going to school for free, sometimes for college credit. Graduates of registered apprenticeship programs are certified journey workers who will be accepted by the industry at a higher level of pay.

But even before you graduate, you can take advantage of valuable training programs called pre-apprenticeships. Programs for high school students may begin in your junior year and may include on-the-job training with participating employers. Pre-apprenticeships can lead to registered apprenticeship programs, credit toward early completion and above average wages, sometimes as much as 60 percent above industry standard pay.

Some school districts have pre-apprenticeship programs on school campuses, and some have partnerships with vendors who provide training off site, which usually serves students in GED or other adult education programs. There are 17 Youth Pre-Apprenticeship Programs across Florida. Ask your guidance counselor what programs may be near you.

In Palm Beach County recently, 90 students completed a pre-apprenticeship program in construction offered by Florida Training Services at the North Tech educational center. The seven-month training let students learn about various aspects of construction, including plumbing, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), welding and other skills. Graduates earned important OSHA Safety Training, Forklift Safety Training and High Reach (equipment) Safety Training certifications. The construction program also allows them to earn National Center for Construction Education and Research Core Certification.

There are 225 active registered apprenticeship programs in Florida in fields like these:
  • Automobile mechanic
  • Bricklayer
  • Carpenter
  • Chef
  • Child care development specialist
  • Electrician
  • HVAC
  • Machinist
  • Pipe fitter
  • Plumber
  • Sheet metal worker
  • Telecommunications technician


With no tuition and fees (so no school loans), and no previous experience required, pre-apprenticeship programs can help you:

  • Develop skills that can demand above-average wages
  • Move to a registered apprentice-ship program with credit toward early completion
  • Obtain in-depth, hands-on training
  • Enjoy the opportunity for immediate employment after training

D3From Internship to His Own Business

Joey Sleppy was paying attention in one of his engineering classes the spring of his junior year at Osceola Fundamental High School. “The teacher told us Ditek Corp. was hiring interns.” Joey says, so I emailed them and they passed my email around. Joey says classmates who apparently weren’t as attentive when the teacher mentioned the opportunity were surprised when he announced he was going to work for Ditek, a digital technology manufacturer, starting in April after school, then all summer long. He was already well versed in SolidWorks computer assisted design software, but he learned important lessons on the job, too. I learned what engineers like and don’t like, he says. After his freshman year at the University of Central Florida, Joey took summer school and continues to work remotely for Ditek in the evenings after classes. After college, Joey plans to focus on his own company, SleppSolutions, which won him a $10,000 start-up grant from the Pinellas Education Foundation. SleppSolutions designs innovative fitness equipment for people with physical challenges. Joey, who hears with cochlear implants and also is a Type 1 diabetic, designed a product called Free Hand Fitness to help his mother, who deals with carpal tunnel syndrome.Working at Ditek made everything real, he says. It gave me confidence.



Internships and shadowing experiences let you take a test drive, and they look great on your resume.

You don’t have to be enrolled in a career academy to benefit from an internship or job shadowing experience. Check with your school or school district to learn of partnerships with businesses willing to work with students. Most arrangements will be unpaid, or for school credit in some cases. Don’t sweat it. The point is to get experience that will translate into a paying job later. Or try on your own. One of the best ways to find yourself alongside a professional in the career field of your dreams is to ask someone your parents or their friends know at places of business you are interested in. Many employers do not have formal internship or shadow programs, but if you call an individual employee with a good heart, you may be in. Spending after-school hours during two weeks or even two days observing and interacting with an employee is a valuable way to see what a job is really like, and how you really feel about it. Even on a short-term shadowing, you can ask to do real work. Initiative is impressive. And it’s a great resume builder.



Grow Financial Federal Credit Union headquarters in Tampa is host to college and high school interns in the summer.

(left to right) 2015 interns Dakota Whaley, University of South Florida junior; Olivia Lenz, Jefferson High Academy of Finance senior, Julie Feliciano, Chamberlain High Academy of Finance senior, and Olivia O’Neal, Armwood High Academy of Finance senior.




How do you know if a workplace is desirable?

Research them online. Look for news articles as well as company websites. Read “Best Companies” compilations like Florida Trend’s “Best Companies To Work For In Florida,” published annually since 2009.