Even amid an economic slowdown, many solid careers await those who'd rather go to work than go to college. Here's a roundup of some of the more promising opportunities:
Painter - "The best way to break into the painting industry, if you have no experience, is as an apprentice in a union environment," advises Roland Sheppard, retired business representative of Painters Local Union No. 4 in San Francisco. "They have better training and there is more steady employment."
The local union also has an accredited apprenticeship program, unique to San Francisco, with the College of San Mateo, where students get hands-on training and college credits.
"Apprentice pay starts at $12 an hour and provides health coverage and benefits after six months," Sheppard says. "When a journey level is reached after three years, the pay scale increases to $32 an hour."
He warns that it's hard work and the apprentices start out doing sanding, cleaning up, and carting materials. But there are lucrative job opportunities.
"Painters will always be in demand and it takes no effort to go into business for yourself," Sheppard declares. "If you have the skills, you can hustle for yourself because your skills are marketable throughout the world."
Roofer - According to Alvaro Garcia, financial secretary of Roofing Union Local No. 8 in Oakland, the roofing industry, like most of the trades, has been hurt by slowed construction and the sluggish economy. But learning the trade is fairly simple and the housing market always bounces back.
"We have a roofing apprenticeship program here and there are many more building trades in our same building to choose such as masons, roofers, electricians, painters, cement masons, bricklayers and laborers," he explains. "There are no upfront union dues to pay and the new member then goes to work at one of the roofing companies we represent."
Garcia reports there is no charge for the training program, which includes 50 percent on-the-job training and 50 percent classroom instruction.
"New hires are classified as an apprentice earning $10.35 an hour starting pay," he says. "However, if he or she has some prior skills the pay is upped to $11.30 an hour. After 42 months, journeyman status brings $23.75 an hour."
Electrician - If you got a charge out of math in high school, then you might want to consider a career as an electrician.
"The application process begins with fulfilling an algebra requirement," reports Ennetta Drake with the Alameda County Electrical Joint Apprenticeship Program in San Leandro. "If a candidate passes the test and oral interview he or she could be selected for the program."
The program involves both one-day-a-week classroom instruction and on-the-job training with a contractor. The five-year program is free through the union, but the apprentice is responsible for books and tools.
"Apprentices are paid $14.80 an hour while on the job," she says. "Although our electrical work depends mainly on the weather, you can make excellent money." Experienced electricians can earn over $50,000 a year.
Trucks & Cars
Driver - James Biggs, flatbed dispatcher with Lee Trucking in Placerville, concurs with the part about excellent money.
"There are plenty of job opportunities and everyone and their brother is hunting for drivers," he contends. "But a person needs to be prepared for a lot of sacrifices."
He advises prospective drivers to attend a trucking school to get their license and learn the basic rules of the road.
Larger companies will hire people right out of school, he says, however, drivers will be away from home and will spend as much money on the road as they make - no expense accounts.
"As a driver gains experience they can make a good living," he adds. "Pay is based either upon a percentage of the load payment or on trip length - 20 cents a mile and up."
Car Parts Supplier - "It's a matter of personality and attitude in this business," observes Mike Weiss, counterman at Monument Car Parts in San Ramon. "You need to be able to hold your tongue when you have to; especially when you tell a customer the part he or she needs costs $500, and it can fit in a small bag."
He says he's been in the parts business for over 21 years after getting some training in the Navy and later learning more at a mom-and-pop shop. Most new hires have some knowledge of car systems, but more importantly, they need the aptitude to learn more about the product. Depending on the area, the average starting pay is about $11 an hour.
"I've made a fairly decent living and own my own home," he adds. "I learned a lot by listening and have always said in my career, I've been overpaid and under worked."
Flowers & Flours
Florist - In the floral industry, a neat appearance is half the battle. "A job candidate would have to possess some artistic inclination," explains Jane Takaha of Charter Way Florist in Stockton. "But if that is not balanced with a well-groomed look they aren't going to be suited for the business."
She says new hires usually start in a clerking position and get training on the job to become a florist and a decorator. "The good news is there are always job opportunities in the floral industry from delivery on up," she states. "The salary depends on the shop and the job description."
Caterer - You like to cook - and your dishes win raves from family and friends. Maybe you can find your recipe for career success in the catering industry.
"If you have no food service experience, I advise taking a class at a local community college or picking up a book at the library or bookstore," recommends Lincoln Capitao, chef and owner of My Chef Restaurant and Catering in Modesto. "An alternative would be to ask an established company for a job as a server at a catering event. You would be paid while learning what the business is all about."
Plenty of tempting job opportunities await those with initiative, according to Capitao.
Looking to Make Your Mark?
Tattoo Artist - Are you an artist who's looking to create a body (or bodies) of work? Consider the art of tattooing. Once relegated to the biceps of sailors, tattoos today are mainstream.
"There will always be kids growing up who want to get tattoos or piercings and that is not going to change," contends Poul Jorgensen, manager of Body Fantasy in Sacramento. "It started as a tribal rite and progressed from there."
Although tattooing is more acceptable these days, there are no schools that teach the craft, so a prospective artist usually becomes an apprentice with an established artist for a couple of years. Some shops charge for this instruction.
"Tattoos are an art form so you have to possess the basic artistic ability," says Jorgensen. Patience is another useful attribute. "Apprentices might not touch a tattoo machine for a year," he advises.
Many more career directions can be explored at the one-stop career centers throughout the state. You can find one near you by going to www.edd.ca.gov/one-stop. Or visit your local community college career center. Many of their services are available to you, even if you are not enrolled.
For more information on career options featured in this story:
- Body Fantasy - (916) 444-5657 www.bodyfantasy.com
- Charter Way Florist - (209) 466-5977
- Monument Car Parts - (925) 838-9003
- Alameda County Electrical Joint Apprenticeship Program - (510) 351-5282
- Painter's Union Local #4 - (415) 467-3670
- Regional Painters and Decorators Joint Apprentice Training Committee - (650) 301-1600
- Roofing Apprenticeship Program - (510) 568-3650
- TradeJobsOnline.com - Job search engine exclusively for the building industry trades. Click on your desired job category.
- 1TruckDriverJobs.com - Nationwide directory of jobs listed by company and state. Also includes a message board and classifieds.
- Aptda.com - The Association of Professional Truck Drivers of America is a nonprofit organization offering truck drivers low rates on insurance as well as discounted products and services.
- BestDriverJobs.com - Links to companies nationwide, fuel prices, calendar of events, and more.
- BestTruckingSchools.com - Directory of truck driving schools.
- Cdltest.com - Commercial Driver Testing Services, Inc. offers commercial license preparation courses and skills examination, including materials such as videos, sample tests, and literature.
- ClassAdriverjobs.com - Information and carrier directory listings.
- Infoporium.com/truckschools - Nationwide directory of truck driving schools.
- WesternTruckSchool.com - Oldest and largest truck school in Northern California offering day, night and weekend classes, job assistance, and financing. (888) 860-1226
- Hospitality Jobs Online - hjo.net, website for hotels, food & beverage establishments, travel groups, casinos, cruise lines, country clubs, convention centers, entertainment groups, recruiters and other companies requiring professional services or needing to fill jobs common to the hospitality industry.
- HospitalityOnline.com - Job listings for hotels, restaurants, casinos, etc.
- My Chef Catering - (209) 571-2220
- RestaurantJobs.org - 1000's of restaurant manager jobs, chef jobs, catering jobs and hospitality employment listings.
- RestaurantRecruit.com - Restaurant jobs.