Counselor Resources

As the skilled labor shortage continues, tradespeople are in high demand and can earn well beyond the wages of college graduates. The union construction industry invests in standardized apprenticeship programs specified for each trade which creates a safe, educational environment for hands-on and classroom learning.

The best part of this career path is that apprentices receive their three-to-five-year apprenticeship training at NO COST while also being paid to work for a local contractor. Instead of accumulating costly college debt, apprentices are earning money while receiving a valuable “trades degree”. If the traditional college route doesn’t seem to be the right fit for certain students, guide them toward the resources below or have them explore our website.

Entering the Union Trades

Trades Career Path

Union Apprenticeship FAQs

Union Trade Wage Rates

Information Sessions

If you have students interested in the building and construction trades, reach out to Jose Luevano, WRTP|BIG STEP’s Construction Apprenticeship Readiness Coordinator. Jose works with counselors, teachers and school staff to create virtual or in-person educational sessions unique to your student’s interests. Jose also works individually with students that are ready to begin the process of securing an apprenticeship.

Jose Luevano
Jose Luevano
Construction Apprenticeship Readiness Coordinator

The Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership (WRTP) has become a national leader in recruitment and development solutions, providing career pathways for jobseekers and meeting the needs of employers/unions looking to hire a diverse set of qualified candidates.

Building Advantage works closely with WRTP|BIG STEP to recruit individuals interested in apprenticeship and promote workforce readiness opportunities.

For more information on how WRTP/BIG STEP can help you prepare for employment in union construction, visit

Test Preparation

Every applicant must complete the ACCUPLACER aptitude test or meet other testing requirements, which helps identify your knowledge, strengths and areas of improvement in math, reading and writing. Some trades require a spatial or mechanical test also. We recommend you prepare well in advance for the best chance of success. For tutoring help, contact WRTP/BIG STEP.

Practice and prepare for test day by downloading the free web-based ACCUPLACER test app.

Below are a few sample questions from the classic ACCUPLACER placement exams.

A. 0.5
B. 2
C. 18
D. 50

The answer is D, 50.

A. 3/4 < 5/7
B. 2/3 > 5/6
C. 5/8 > 6/10
D. 4/5 < 2/9

The answer is C, 5/8 > 6/10.


The answer is B, 12.


There are nearly 20 different trade pathways to choose from that each require a variety of skill sets and focus on different areas of construction. The WRTP|BIG STEP teams offer services to help you find a fit and get connected with industry professionals in the field. Consider factors such as your comfort with working in closed spaces or heights, your desire to work in extreme weather conditions, and your math skill level.

You will need to be 18 years old and have a high school diploma or HSED to be eligible to start an apprenticeship. Each skilled trade has a unique application process, and for many trades you can begin to submit these documents in your senior year of high school. You will complete your application by submitting your high school transcripts and finishing the steps in the application process. You do not need to have college certifications or degrees to be eligible for an apprenticeship after high school.

The first step is to complete the application process. These processes and application days depend on your trade. The WRTP|BIG STEP team can help you with this through their apprenticeship readiness services. Your construction apprenticeship is through the state of Wisconsin, and you will sign a contract. When you get to this point, you will be hired by a local contractor and also join your local’s trade union.

Your math courses will be especially important if you are considering a career in construction. Take Algebra and practice skills like basic calculations, reading a ruler, and understanding fractions. The skilled trades will want you to have a good understanding of reading, language, and science as well. Most trade application processes require passing test scores, so your reading, math, and language ACT scores will be important. Take the opportunity to enroll in any career and technical education classes such as welding. Reach out to WRTP/BIG STEP for training opportunities as well.

If you complete the application process, get selected, and find an opportunity with a contractor to begin an apprenticeship, then you will spend about 80% of your time on the job and 20% of your time in school depending on your trade. An apprenticeship with the construction union trades is an “earn as you learn” program, meaning you are paid from the start of your apprenticeship for the work you do, learn from professionals in the field, and also have an opportunity to attend classes. Be aware that construction is often seasonal work, so apprentices may be out of work or laid off at certain points in the year (i.e. colder months). You will need to plan for this in how you spend your money and time, but part of being in a construction union is supporting you in finding work when contractors are hiring.

A construction apprenticeship is a full-time opportunity to work and attend classes. The class schedule will vary based on the trade apprenticeship program you begin. Some trades have classes once or twice a week, sometimes in the evenings or on weekends. Other trades have apprentices attend classes during slower parts of the season when there is not as much work in the field. This schedule will depend on the trade you choose and how the local training center runs the program.

You may have a wait before getting hired once you complete the application process for apprenticeship. Be patient. Be persistent. You may choose to take courses or trainings, and this is a good time to work on your resume and interview skills. Reach out to WRTP|BIG STEP to learn more about their services. Stay connected to your local union to learn about job opportunities and hiring contractors.

Yes! One perk of being part of the construction union trades is that each trade has a standard starting wage for new apprentices that is very competitive and offers strong benefits like health insurance and retirement savings. You will be eligible for wage increases as you earn hours towards your apprenticeship. Apprenticeships typically last 3 – 5 years, and you get paid the entire time you are working. You can then become a journey worker making between $35-50/hour. This could all happen in about 5 years after graduating high school depending on industry need and the trade.

As part of your local construction union, you will be eligible for wage increases based on the number of hours earned as an apprentice. During your apprenticeship, you work towards becoming a journeyworker who is an experienced professional in the field that can train apprentices. There are also opportunities to become a foreman leading crews on a job site, or a superintendent overseeing project job sites. The construction industry has many employment pathways and opportunities for continuing education to advance in your career!

The construction industry has work as long as communities are building and infrastructure needs improvements. Based on the trade that you choose, construction work may be seasonal. The trades are a growing industry in need of young people to join the workforce.

Are you ready to see what a career in union construction has to offer?