Apprenticeships Are No Match for Google

Unlike search engines, apprenticeships bring education and real-world working experience to plumbers.

Apprenticeships Are No Match for Google

Randy Lorge

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According to Wikipedia, an apprenticeship is a system of training a new generation of practitioners of a trade or profession with on-the-job training and often some accompanying study (classroom work and reading). 

According to Merriam-Webster, “Google” is to use a search engine to obtain information about (someone or something) on the World Wide Web.

So that means they are completely different, right? I know how I would answer that question and, for the most part, I’m pretty sure I know how you would answer that question. How would the general public answer that though?

I have this uneasy feeling that if the topic came up in general conversation, the average person would tend to think that an apprenticeship is some sort of gimmick to hire cheap labor. They might even go as far as saying it is some union thing that was developed to protect their work and keep it to themselves.

I mean, why would someone need to work two to five years as an apprentice while being paid a percentage of what a journeyman or master plumber makes? If I need to know something about plumbing, all I need to do is ask Google. Google knows all, right? Not only will Google tell me something about plumbing, it will show me videos on how to do it. And to top it off, the videos are free.

Why would you ever need an apprenticeship to do plumbing, much less worry about becoming a plumber?


I truly hope by now you’re smiling and possibly even laughing about the last couple of paragraphs and not plotting how you’re going to write hate mail to me.

Googling something about plumbing versus serving an apprenticeship are completely different; we all know that. The very definition of an apprenticeship gives us an example of what makes an apprenticeship so unique, “a trade or profession with on-the-job training.”

In other words, apprenticeships equal experience. Experience equals efficiency. Experience cannot be obtained by Googling it. Think about it for a second. Can serving in a war be Googled? Sure it can. But can you fight a war by Googling it? Extreme? Maybe, but you get the point.

The on-the-job aspect of the apprenticeship is what sustains the trade. The training an apprentice receives from the journeyman or master he or she works with is priceless. Experiences are shared and knowledge is passed on by working side by side. Safety, timesavings, and know-how are imparted to the apprentice who will someday do the same for his or her apprentices.


Then of course comes the schooling. It is here that the “how” meets the “why.” “The journeyman told you to do it this way because the code says so. Now here’s why.” 

Depending on your state, the number of hours spent in the classroom learning code can vary. Here in Wisconsin, a plumbing apprentice attends 572 hours “paid related-training.” You read that right! The apprentice gets paid their hourly wage to attend an eight-hour class every other week studying plumbing code, plumbing principles and theory.

They attend paid related-classes for eight semesters, and then, on their own time, they are required to attend a minimum of 260 hours of “unpaid related-training” on topics such as blueprint reading, plumbing applications, and OSHA, to name a few. What’s even better is that on top of the apprentice being required to be paid per the apprenticeship contract is that many employers will even pay for the classes and books required, provided they attain a B or higher grade-point average. That means the apprentice could very well be debt-free at the end of the apprenticeship and off to earning, on average, $75,000-85,000 a year after successfully passing the state licensing exam.


As many trades struggle to attain new workers to fill the gaps that the baby boomers are leaving and expected to leave, other occupations are feeling the same pinch and are turning to apprenticeships, not Google, for help.

According to Wikipedia, the number of American apprentices has increased from 375,000 in 2014 to 500,000 in 2016, while the federal government intends to see 750,000 by 2019, particularly by expanding the apprenticeship model to include white-collar occupations such as information technology.

It was also stated that youth apprenticeships are a promising new strategy to engage youth in career-connected learning, encourage high school completion, lower the youth unemployment rate, lower the skills gap, and provide a pipeline for youth into higher education or into the industry as qualified workers to fill open positions.

Apprenticeships have survived and sustained themselves since as far back as the 1950s and some will say even as far back to the time of Christ who apprenticed under his earthly father as a carpenter.

Google is only as good as your connection.


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