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How to hire an apprentice the right way


An apprenticeship program can be very beneficial for your company: You'll attract highly motivated individuals who are likely to stick around, potentially for years to come – and you’ll be able to train them to do the job exactly as you need it done. 

Trade businesses are burgeoning and there's a shortage of qualified and hard-working talent in many lines of work. So, to streamline your apprentice hiring process and attract the best people, you need to first determine your company’s goals and needs – and the skills you’re looking for. 

When looking for an apprentice, it’s best to base your hiring decisions on your applicants’ cognitive abilities, willingness to learn, and other intangible skills, rather than on hard skills that they’ll learn on the job. Your journeymen will be able to provide both classroom instruction and hands-on training to your apprentices, but innate qualities, behavior, and cognitive skills are much harder to cultivate. 

But how do you quickly evaluate such traits? And, more importantly, how can you assess them accurately and objectively? 

Using pre-employment tests will enable you to do just that. Our cognitive-ability tests are designed to give you data-driven insights into your potential hires’ soft skills, including their motivation and interpersonal skills, which are essential for apprentices.

In this article, we’ll explain what skills to look for, how to evaluate them, where to look for apprentices, and how much you can expect to pay. 

But first, let’s start with the basics.

What is an apprentice? 

An apprentice is a person who receives on-the-job training by their employer and is paid a portion of the wage of a professional, typically between ⅓ and ½ of a standard wage

Apprenticeship programs are a great opportunity both for employees and companies, because they:

  • Enable young professionals to learn a craft or a trade from experienced workers while being paid

  • Enable companies to attract highly-motivated candidates, train them, and employ them in the future

Apprenticeships offer a wide range of options for professional development and are common in various industries, such as: 

  • Construction

  • Agriculture 

  • Manufacturing

  • Healthcare

  • Telecommunications

  • Energy

  • Cybersecurity

  • Education

  • Financial services

  • Hospitality

  • Information technology

  • Transportation

In contrast with college education, apprentices get paid from day one and therefore can avoid accumulating student debt. 

In the US, registered apprenticeship programs – i.e. those that are industry-vetted and validated by a State Apprenticeship Agency or the US Department of Labor – include both on-site training and classroom instruction. In this way, companies help participants to become well-rounded specialists and gain some initial experience and exposure to their craft of choice. 

Very often, apprentices stay with the company, which helps address specific skill gaps and reduce hiring costs. That’s also one of the ways in which apprenticeships are different from internships.

What's the difference between apprenticeships and internships?

You might be wondering whether your company will benefit more from setting up an apprenticeship or an internship program to attract and retain young talent. Here's how they compare: 

  • Duration: Internships rarely run over 6 months, and they serve to offer interns a glimpse into a potential future career. Apprenticeships are fully-fledged training programs that may take anywhere from one to four years to complete. 

  • Goals and objectives: Internships are usually designed to enable college students to get a taste of what it's like to work for a specific company or in a specific industry. Though internships may extend into employment, there are no employment guarantees or commitments exchanged between the parties. An apprenticeship implies that the apprentice will stay with the company for a longer period. 

  • Pay and benefits: Interns may or may not be paid, and they don't receive benefits or perks. Contrary to that, apprenticeships are always paid, and participants receive up to 50% of the salary earned by an experienced journeyman. They often receive benefits and other forms of compensation. 

The difference between apprenticeships and internships graphic

Apprentices’ hard skills: What are the hard skills that an apprentice should have? 

The specific technical skills you might need will depend on your industry. 

In many cases, apprenticeship candidates will be fresh out of high school with no experience and specific technical skills. You can look at this as a great opportunity to help them become skilled tradespeople and train them in the hard skills they need to succeed. So, instead of looking for specific technical competencies, look for a solid base on which you can build. 

As an example, here are some of the core skills a candidate for an apprenticeship in construction should demonstrate: 

  • Fitness: Your future apprentice will need to move tools and equipment. It's worth finding candidates who are fit and well prepared for physical work on the site. Review the regulations that determine the loads you can ask employees and apprentices to handle.

  • Resilience: In addition to being fit, your apprentice should be willing to work outside in all kinds of weather. They may need to operate in unfavorable conditions on the sites where it's muddy and dusty. You want to work with individuals who are resilient and dedicated to succeeding. 

  • Integrity: If you want to trust your future employees, you need to know that you can rely on them when handling equipment, materials, or information. You can run background checks to figure out whether you are dealing with a trustworthy candidate. 

  • Safety-first attitude: In some trades and industries, employees might need to work in hazardous conditions. So, a conscious attitude toward safety and discipline is a must and helps prevent incidents, including life-threatening ones. Look for candidates who understand this and have done their research on your industry and on potential hazards.

Skills that a candidate for an apprenticeship in construction must have graphic

Apprentices’ soft skills: What soft skills to look for in your future apprentice?

Soft skills play a key role in the future success of your apprentice and the value they deliver to your business: It's all about how reliable, hard-working, and motivated they are. 

Here are some of the main personality traits to look out for when recruiting an apprentice:

  • Willingness to learn: A lot depends on whether an apprentice is interested in learning the ropes as fast as they can. Nearly every industry and trade out there is undergoing a major transformation, so your employees must be able to keep up with innovations and be willing to learn. If your applicants are eager to learn, they’ll have prepared well for the interview and the apprenticeship itself. 

  • Teamwork and communication skills: In lots of trades, working in a team is a must and that’s exactly what enables companies to deliver the results for which their clients love them. No single person can deliver top quality and speedy execution without collaborating with others. So, being a team player is crucial for the successful career progression of your next apprentice.

  • Self-management and self-motivation: Your apprentice should be motivated to go the extra mile and fly on their own as soon as possible. Independence, taking initiative, and the willingness to take on extra responsibilities are the main markers of a high-potential worker in front of you. Ask applicants why they've chosen your particular apprenticeship and what motivates them to follow this path. 

A person who's highly motivated and dedicated to their profession will also be proactive and take on the tasks that need to get done. Such an employee will be poised to climb the ladder and might even turn into a successful leader in your organization later on. 

How to test an apprentice’s skills? 

Before you begin interviewing candidates, use skills tests to see who has the right soft skills to join your business. In this way, you can objectively assess and compare applicants and pick the ones who truly have the motivation to learn the trade. 

TestGorilla is the perfect software tool for that: We have over 300 tests for various jobs, vocations, and cognitive abilities in our test library

You can combine up to five skills tests in a single assessment. Here are our top recommendations for apprentice recruitment: 

  • Communication: This simple 10-minute test gives you insight into how well candidates communicate with others. It enables you to see whether your future worker knows how to communicate in a professional setting, use active listening, and understand non-verbal cues. 

  • Understanding Instructions: To be successful in their apprenticeship, your trainees need to follow instructions to the T. Occasionally, they might work in hazardous conditions, so sticking to rules and best practices is paramount for everyone’s safety. Running this test helps you see how well each candidate can follow verbal and written instructions. 

  • Problem solving: This test helps you see how your candidates deal with logical problems. The best ones will have the right skills to interpret data, draw conclusions, prioritize information and apply order based on a given set of rules, and make the right decisions to solve problems. 

To these, you can add tests to evaluate applicants’ mechanical reasoning, attention to detail, critical thinking, and more. Check out our test library and specifically our cognitive-ability tests for more ideas.

Pre-employment tests help you see who's worth your attention. TestGorilla simplifies the whole process: not only can you combine multiple tests in a single assessment, but you can also add customized questions, and even ask applicants to record a short video of themselves to further evaluate their communication skills.

Interview questions for apprentices

Once you evaluate your candidates’ skills with the help of skills tests, it’s time to invite the best ones to an interview. The questions you ask will depend on your industry and specific business, but there are some general questions you can ask, such as: 

  1. How do you prioritize tasks when everything seems urgent? 

  2. What courses or prior experiences have prepared you for this role?

  3. How do you ensure precision and accuracy in your work?

  4. Describe a time you worked as part of a team to achieve a common goal.

  5. A coworker is not following the company's rules. What do you do?

  6. How do you maintain focus when working on repetitive tasks?

  7. Describe a time you provided excellent customer service.

  8. Are you comfortable working during weekends, holidays, or late hours?

  9. How do you stay calm under pressure?

  10. How would you deal with a coworker who's not pulling their weight?

  11. What do you think is the biggest challenge in our industry right now? 

  12. How do you handle physically demanding tasks?

  13. How do you manage your time to ensure projects stay on schedule?

  14. How do you communicate effectively with team members and supervisors?

  15. What are your long-term career goals?

  16. What do you hope to learn during this apprenticeship?

How to source candidates for your apprenticeship program

As a first step, consider reaching out to local community colleges and even high schools and consider participating in (or even sponsoring) their career fairs. This will position you ahead of competitors who aren't going the extra mile in their recruitment efforts and enable you to connect with students who show great potential. 

You should also actively collaborate with your local administration. Its staff can help you get support in funding your apprenticeship program; plus, these folks always have extensive networks that can quickly yield high-potential apprentices for hire. 

How much does it cost to hire an apprentice? 

According to Salary.com, hourly wages for apprentices in the US typically fall within a range of $18 to $22

Apprentices are paid around 30% to 50% of the pay earned by a skilled journeyman of the same trade. Many companies build apprenticeship programs that have a system of gradual pay increases as apprentices progress in their training. 

Apprentice job description template

Position: Apprentice – [industry and role]

Location: [City, state]

We're looking for a motivated and enthusiastic apprentice to join our team. With us, you'll have the chance to build key technical skills for the role, participate in numerous training opportunities, take on-site and off-site classes, and grow into a skilled professional within [X months or years]. 

We're looking for someone who has excellent communication and time-management skills and who's eager to learn the ropes of the profession and assist other team members with all tasks.


In this role, we'll expect you to: 

  • Learn the job through hands-on experience and classwork

  • Assist other team members and observe their work

  • Follow instructions from supervisors and experienced team members

  • Perform all assigned tasks to the best of your ability and ask questions as needed

  • Adhere to all safety standards and protocols of our workplace

  • Actively seek feedback and ways to improve your performance

  • Participate in formal and informal training sessions

  • Learn to properly use, maintain, and store tools and equipment

  • Document learning experiences and tasks performed

  • Communicate effectively with supervisors and peers, ensuring clarity in tasks and responsibilities

  • Engage in team discussions and planning sessions

  • Take the initiative to seek additional learning opportunities beyond assigned tasks

  • Promptly report any problems, discrepancies, or potential safety concerns to supervisors

  • Finish any assignments related to the apprenticeship program


To join apprenticeship program, you’ll need: 

  • A high school diploma

  • Excellent time management and organizational skills

  • Excellent problem-solving, critical-thinking, and mechanical-reasoning skills

  • And, perhaps most importantly, a passion for learning the trade

Managing an apprenticeship program is easy with the right approach to hiring

Use your local networks and contact the community to quickly find the high-potential apprentices in your area. This will position your brand as a great contributor and find admiration across the folks who may become your potential clients in the future. 

Make sure that you run the employment testing to cut the hassle within your hiring process. TestGorilla helps you create an easy-to-access testing suit on their website with the minimum effort on your part.

Consider running a free-of-charge demo and see how it works with your own eyes.


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