Construction Trades and Apprenticeships – GradPlan

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Construction Trades and Apprenticeships

Explore careers and training opportunities in Illinois for construction trades

What Will You Build?

Construction is an ever-growing field, with building trades (carpentry, electrical, plumbing, etc.) making up a large number of occupations. Here are some examples of career pathways in the construction industry:

  • Carpentry
  • Electrician
  • Brickmason
  • Site engineer
  • Overhead line worker
  • Painter
  • Tile layer
  • Elevator repair
  • HVAC specialist
  • Concrete finisher
  • Roofing
  • Plumbing
  • Ironworker
  • Boilermaker
  • Cement mason

Apprenticeship and Pre-Apprenticeship Programs


An apprentice is someone who is hired into a paid position as a trainee who is learning a specific craft (i.e. carpentry, bricklaying, clothing repair). Apprenticeships involve both classroom learning and on-the-job training.

Certain fields require an entry-level understanding of specific skills in order to begin an apprenticeship. To prepare learners they offer a pre-apprenticeship program so trainees can learn the basics before advancing to a full apprenticeship role.

An apprenticeship can last anywhere from 1-3 years depending on the program. Typically, the apprenticeship salary increases each year of program. After successfully completing the apprenticeship, you are ready to apply for a full-time journeyman level position and you’ll be on your way to a great career!

For more information on construction careers, check out this guidebook about different career pathways in the construction trade including average salaries and the length of time it takes to get trained in various trades. You can also visit to look up the various apprenticeship programs available in your area.

What is a Trade Union?

In the construction trades, there are programs which are sponsored by trade unions which represent a specific field in the construction industry. For example, there could be an Ironworkers Union or a Carpenters Union. Everyone in that specific union will work in the same career pathway, allowing for networking and greater conversation regarding the craft.

Unions may have a national organization which then divides up in to units in specific areas, often called Locals. So you might see, for example, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 181. Any electricians in that region could apply to join that local branch of the larger national union.


There are numerous benefits to joining a union including:

  • Paid training with no required experience
  • Guaranteed good pay and retirement savings
  • Great health insurance
  • Opportunity to get promoted with experience or through an apprenticeship

Regional Construction Trade Programs


Rebuilding Exchange offers a free, 6-week pre-apprenticeship program for any high school grad over the age of 18.

Chicago Women In Trades Technical Opportunities Program and Women in Welding Programare 12-week pre-apprenticeship programs with hands-on training and help applying to apprenticeships upon completion.

ABC’s Community Builders is a construction training pre-apprenticeship program with employment opportunities in an apprenticeship or entry-level job after the training is complete. Program length varies depending on your chosen focus.

Revolution Workshop – Construction and woodworking training features 10-12 week programs on various trades.

Illinois Department of Transportation Highway Construction Careers provides a three-month training program. Find registration information on their website.

Chicago Urban League operates 8-week pre-apprenticeship programs, as well as, referral and job placement programs.

Recommended Resources


Job Training Programs

"Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today."

Malcolm X, human rights activist