Apprenticeships vs. cooperative education, pros and cons of each


Unless you have been hiding under rock for the past year, everybody knows that Biden (and the Democrats in general) want to change the auto industry from being dependent on gasoline powered cars to battery operated cars.  People have their views on if their will be better for society, worse for society, or neutral (trading one set of problems for a different set of problems).  Trying to weed through the propaganda to find honest information will make your head spin, so if you need to take break before continuing to read this article, I would recommend  de-stressing by visiting the FairGo casino login.

All joking aside, let’s get to the point.

Before the country (or the world) can transition from gasoline powered cars to battery powered cars, two main things need to happen.  Workers need to be trained in the new auto mechanics (physical cars) and workers need to be trained in setting up and maintaining the info structure (“electric pumps”).

What is the Biden Administration pushing and/or supporting?

Inside the Build Back Better bill in  the House of Representatives, is language that would force (“strongly encourage”) private developers of solar, wind, hydrogen, carbon sequestration, electric vehicle charging stations and other clean energy projects to either hire union-signatory contractors and unionized construction workers or lose critical tax incentives that help grow America’s clean energy marketplace.

While it is not a requirement to hire union labor, it is an attempt to leverage federal tax policy to boost union membership.  But 87.3% of the construction industry work for nonunion contractors and they have no desire to work for a union.

But what does this mean in terms of real dollars and cents?  The current clean energy tax credit is slashed from 30% to 6%.  But businesses receive a 500% higher than the baseline credit if they use government registered apprentices and pay workers union-scale, government determined hourly benefits and wages that are determined by the Davis Bacon Act of 1931.

For decades, construction trade unions have lobbied lawmakers for a host of anti-competitive and costly union-favoring policies, like government-registered apprenticeship requirements and Davis-Bacon prevailing wage mandates on government construction projects, to steer contracts to unionized firms and labor.  But some view the current tax code as specifically rewarding union contractors over non-union contractors.

Right now the construction industry has a shortage of 430,000 workers.  Also, Biden wants the number of EV charging stations to increase from the current count of 48,000 to 500,000 by 2030, 8 years in the future.  But only 13% of the construction industry are official union workers.

Is this a problem?  Is this not a problem?  I do not know.  But what I do know that in order to create EV charging stations, the country electricians and electric technicians, and electrical engineers.

Training to be an Electrical Engineer

When talking about post high school education, there are three main categories of education.  The first is a theory based education taught at a traditional theory based school.  An example of this would be MIT’s program in electrical engineering.

When a person graduates from MIT with a BS in Electrical Engineering, they know the theory of electrical engineering.  When talking about the automotive industry, these would be the future people who are going to design to next class of auto electric car motors and batteries.  In order to become an electrical engineer, a person studies in University for 4 years to obtain a BS in Engineering.

  1. Passed the NCEES Fundamentals of Engineering Exam or in the process of taking the exam.
  2. BS Degree
  3. Experience (class 1, accredited degree in engineering) – 4 years of engineering experience following the degree.
  4. Experience (class 2, accredited degree in engineering technology) – 7 years of engineering experience following the degree.
  5. Five endorsers must sign off on your application, which must be licensed US engineers, including 1 from your work experience

The cons is that obtaining an engineering degree is hard.  The second disadvantage is that it is theory based.  I have personally met electrical engineers who cannot change an electrical outlet in their own  house.  In other words, no hands on training.

The advantage is that once you get your BS degree, it is a degree that is valid anywhere in the United States.  Nobody can take that away.  The engineering certificate in a specific state is a different story, but that is also true with certified doctors, therapists, and lawyers.

Training to become an electrician, apprenticeship

At the opposite end of the spectrum are the trade school electricians.  To become an E-2 unlimited journeyperson, you must show 8,000 hours (four years) of hands-on work experience, as well as 144 hours per year of classroom instruction. These requirements can be met by attending a technical college and completing an apprenticeship under the supervision of a licensed contracting company, or by joining a union or non-union apprenticeship program.

Then next step is to take the Journeyperson exam.

After 2 more years of experience, you can become a licensed independent contractor after also passing the Electrical Contractor exam.

The advantage is around a year of education.

Note: If things have changed in what I am about is wrong, please correct me in the comments.  This is my friend’s experience from 15 years ago in Connecticut.


I had a friend who went to a trade school to learn to become an electrical engineer.  The guy was very smart, and graduated the top student in his class.  When it came time to get an official “apprenticeship job”, there were 30 students who graduated from the program and only two jobs available in Connecticut that year.  Since work is a requirement to officially graduate from the program, 28 people could not continue on their professional journey.  Of the two there were left, at least one of those jobs was given a worker relative who did not graduate from any official training program.

On top of that, apprentices have no salary requirements or benefits.  They are basically entry level hourly wage employees with no benefits and you are required by CT law to remain at that level for 4 years.  Once this work part is finished, you become an official Journeyperson and the pay is much better along with the benefits.

But if there is only 1 job for at least 30 people, 29 people just took out a student loan for a career path that they cannot continue.

I asked my friend, why couldn’t he just apply for a job in another state.  He said that the work and the school are connected with each other, and both have to be done in the same state.  If he took a job in another state, he would have to redo the educational part in that state.

I am not sure if my friend misunderstood the requirements or if that is truly the way things are.  But if my friend’s experience is really the way trade schools work, I personally would recommend the technology school route.

Training with Co-op to become an electrical technician or an electrical engineer

Some colleges take a more hands on approach to educating their students.  These schools fall into the category called Co-Op schools.  Some examples of Co-op schools are Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), Drexel University, and University of Illinois in Chicago.

These programs are 5 year programs instead of 4 year programs where a person at the end gets a BS in Engineering or BS Tech in Engineering Technology.  The schools may have slight variations, but generally, the first two years the student studies full time.  During the last 3 years, the student changes between working and going to school.  By the time the student graduates, they have not only the 4 year degree, but 1 to 1 1/2 years of work experience.

The students learn the theory, but they also learn the hands on stuff.

A person still have to work under a professional in order to obtain an official license as an Electrical Engineer.

If you want to become an electrician after obtaining an electrical engineering degree, this is what is required in NYC:

Having a BSEE does gain you credit towards being an electrician. If you got a BS and are interested in becoming an electrician, most certifications will accept your degree in lieu of a portion of field experience. For example, in New York City you can become a master electrician with 7.5 years of experience as a journeyman. If you have a BS, it only requires 3.5 years of the same experience.  But in order to become an Journeyperson, you still need 4 years of being an apprentice under Journeyperson electrician.

Which is better?

It depends on what you want to do.  If you just want to sit in an office and be the person to design the engineering blue prints, then the engineering degree if the way to go.  If you just want to physically work with the wires, so to speak, and you do not care about the hows and whys, then the trade school route might be the right choice.  But if you are a hands on person, but you still want to understand the theory of the whys, I would recommend the Technical school route with a good co-op program.

The Co-op work is not bound to the physical state that the school is located in.  The trade school requires that you can only to your apprenticeship in the state where you got your education, and there are no apprenticeship jobs available, you not only have the job, you don’t have the certificate that you finished the education either.

Does this apply to people who want to become an auto mechanic?

Minnesota State University Mankato has a BS in Automotive Engineering Technology.  MNSU does  have co-op programs where the student can altercate between academic studies and work.  The students also have year long projects in their final year that involves working on racing cars that compete against other teams.

Teams build their cars over a period of about one year and then take them to the event in Brooklyn, MI to compete with 120 other vehicles from colleges and universities throughout the world. The end result is a meaningful engineering project experience for young engineers as well as the opportunity to work in a dedicated team effort.

Some other schools that have a BS in Automotive Technology are Rio Hondo College in CA, Pennsylvania College of Technology, and BYU Idaho.

If you want to obtain an associate degree, it is a 2 year program and there are a lot more educational options available.

What is my personal recommendation?

I am biased.  I obtained a BS degree from a technical school.  When I did my co-op program, I was able to apply to a job from any company anywhere in the world.  There were no restrictions on what job I could get, except that I had to be doing work related to my field of study.  I could have gotten a job in another country, if I had wanted to.  So getting a job in another state was not a problem.

Compare that to my friend who went to the local trade school to study to become an electrician.  After taking out a loan, studying hard, earning the top grades in his class, obtaining letters of recommendations from his teachers, he was stuck with an entry level job (low pay, no benefits) — worse pay and benefits than the current part-time retail job he had — so he had nothing.

No educational certificate, no job, and no career future.  I asked him why he didn’t just apply for a job in another state, and he said that with apprenticeship programs from trade schools, fulfilling the work part of the school requirements in another state was not allowed.  I do not know if my friend just misunderstood things, but if his experience is reality, I could not recommend to anyone to go the trade school route.

At least with a BS technology or technician degree (or even the Associate Degree) you will still have the degree.