The high cost of education is giving way to a more traditional method of Americans earning a good living by learning one of the construction trades – carpentry, electrician, plumber, HVAC, etc. Two more reasons why apprenticeships are on the rise are:

  1. Students in apprenticeship programs are paid while they learn – something that does not happen while going to college.
  2. Students that complete their training get integrated into the workplace sooner than going to college – two years on average vs four years for college.

Another reason for the rise in apprenticeships is the decline of what is called the “college-wage premium” – the difference in income between what college graduates earn and those without a bachelor’s degree. Since the mid-2010s, the difference between the two entities has been steadily declining to the point where it is has now flattened, and in-fact, has started to slip the other way to the point where recent graduated tradesmen are now earning more than new college graduates.

Apprenticeship Popularity

In 2021, 37.7% of apprentices were 24 years old or younger; 39.7% were 25 to 34 years old. The numbers of apprentices is growing; in less than a decade, the enrollment in trade apprenticeship programs rose by 70%. This resulted in adding over 2 million apprentice graduates since 2012.

And the demand remains strong for the construction trades. During the pandemic, many in the workplace left the trades fields for other work. So not only is the demand for more trades people growing as the economy rebounds, but the industry is still trying to catch up the numbers for those that left the field.

The Military Advantage

Active duty enlisted servicemembers that will be leaving the military in 12 months or more, can enroll in the United Services Military Apprenticeship Program (USMAP) and complete a trades program while still serving in the military. The program is completed during duty hours and graduates come out with a nationally recognized credential in one of the trades fields. In fact, more than 112,000 service members have completed this program.


USMAP is open to members of the military branches to include members of the Reserve and National Guard on active duty.  Within the USMAP, there are also other types of apprenticeships available besides the construction trades. In all, there is a total of 94 different apprenticeship programs to choose from. The hours required to complete the apprenticeships range from a minimum of 2,000 hours to a maximum of 6,000 hours, depending on the type of apprenticeship; Broken down into months, the program requires a minimum of 12 months or more to complete. Each course can be completed either based on time or competency.

Not everyone is cut out to attend college. And by completing an apprenticeship, you are still serving your country … just in a different capacity.

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Kness retired in November 2007 as a Senior Noncommissioned Officer after serving 36 years of service with the Minnesota Army National Guard of which 32 of those years were in a full-time status along with being a traditional guardsman. Kness takes pride in being able to still help veterans, military members, and families as they struggle through veteran and dependent education issues.