What Is an Indentured Apprenticeship? (With Pros and Cons)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 18, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Apprenticeships can help students learn trades, professional techniques, or how to use machinery and tools. These programs can assign them to work with a mentor and prepare youth for future careers in competitive industries. Learning more about indentured apprenticeships can help you evaluate what type of apprenticeship program is right for you and learn how you can enter into one. In this article, we answer "What is an indentured apprenticeship?", review the types of apprenticeship programs available, list the pros and cons, outline how to enter into one, and share essential skills apprentices might use during a program.

Related: What Is an Apprenticeship?

What is an indentured apprenticeship?

Knowing the answer to "What is an indentured apprenticeship?" can help you evaluate various training options and understand how these programs can assist you in gaining essential skills. An indentured apprenticeship is an educational program where a young individual, usually a 13-year-old, receives training in the skilled trades from a journeyman or master craftsman. These professionals use these types of apprenticeships to help teenagers learn carpentry, metalworking, plumbing, masonry, blacksmithing, bricklaying, and tailoring.

Indentured apprenticeships have evolved into educational programs where young teenagers and sometimes even pre-teens can take courses to understand the basics of the skilled trades. They can also take these courses to learn the fundamentals of mathematics, science, coding, graphic design, writing, animation, web development, and digital marketing. Here, skilled and experienced professionals can guide young teenagers to undertake real-life projects. They can also assist them in performing basic duties that can help them learn new skills, such as reading blueprints or using power tools.

Types of apprenticeship programs

Here are the different types of apprenticeship programs to consider:

Traditional apprenticeship programs

These programs usually are part of a college diploma or an undergraduate degree program. They consist of helping students gain practical experience in their chosen field while skilled professionals supervise their work. They usually perform specific low-level duties that might not affect the outcome of a project or company's operations. These responsibilities might include using hand tools, measuring materials, and performing routine maintenance tasks.

For instance, a student who wants to become a concrete pump operator might participate in an apprenticeship program where a licensed professional can help them learn the trade. Here, the professional can teach the student how to operate the machinery, clean it, store it, and keep the workplace safe. These types of programs typically last between six and 12 months and don't include any payment for the student.

Related: What Are the Different Types of Apprenticeships? (With Tips)

Paid apprenticeship programs

To enter into a paid apprenticeship program, it's important for students to apply, which means writing a resume and cover letter and asking for reference letters. They can ask a college instructor or a university professor to recommend them for the apprentice position. Students usually look to enter these apprenticeships after they've completed their college diploma or undergraduate degree program.

Typically, companies use paid apprenticeships to evaluate if apprentices have the required skills and professional commitment to become employees before offering them a full-time position or contract. They can also use these apprenticeships to teach candidates how to operate the company's systems, software, equipment, or processes. For instance, a company might offer a paid apprenticeship to teach how the institutional cooking process works and how to cook the dishes the company prepares for health care facilities.

Related: Journeyperson vs. Apprentice: What Are the Key Differences?

Youth apprenticeship programs

These types of apprenticeship programs focus on helping pre-teens and teenagers develop the necessary skills to become working adults. They can help students explore different industries, such as agriculture, construction, manufacturing, computer science, information technology, or telecommunications. Their purpose is to allow students to learn more about these fields and reflect on their potential career paths. Usually, during these apprenticeships, students don't perform tasks related to the day-to-day operations of a business, but basic tasks that can help them better understand the workings of a particular field.

They can also watch how the business runs and participate in a supervised educational program that companies establish to help youth develop skills at an early age. Here, participants can also familiarize themselves with the requirements to get a job, such as writing a resume, creating a cover letter, researching a position, and submitting applications. Sometimes, federal, provincial, territorial, and local governments fund these programs to help youth obtain the skills that might help them become productive and successful employees in the future.

Related: What Are Apprenticeships in Carpentry? (With Tips)

Union apprenticeship programs

Unions and professional associations support, validate, and manage these types of apprenticeship programs as part of their efforts for professional development. They do this to help unionized employees and future ones develop the required skills and knowledge to perform a variety of roles. Sometimes, completing a union apprenticeship program enables the participant to opt for a licence, as the issuing organization might have the completion of the program as a requirement. Participants who finish the program can also apply for a unionized position in the future, such as a carpenter, electrician, bus driver, or plumber.

Related: What Is a Union? (How They Work and Benefits They Provide)

Pros and cons of an indentured apprenticeship

Here are the pros and cons of this type of apprenticeship program:


Indentured apprenticeships can help young people learn trade skills from qualified mentors and industry experts and get work experience at the same time. Employers might appreciate the apprentice's in-depth knowledge of the industry and how they've been learning it for several years. For instance, they can assume that a carpenter apprentice who has been learning carpentry since the age of 13 might have a good understanding of the trade.

It can also help the apprentice familiarize themselves with the work environment, making it easier to transition from school to the workplace. In addition, as they can start applying trade principles and practise with tools and techniques, they can familiarize themselves with the job duties more easily.

Related: How to Teach an Apprentice (With Essential Skills)


These types of apprenticeships might not involve exciting tasks or thrilling challenges but repetitive ones, so apprentices might get distracted easily or disengage. To avoid this, organizations usually try to use mentors with pedagogy and with the ability to explain their duties and responsibilities in an interesting way. In addition, as apprentices might not receive any payment for their work, they might not consider the program as a work experience.

To help them appreciate the program, organizations can issue certificates and create milestones that might encourage them to continue. They can also list the benefits of the program, issue letters of recommendation, and explain how apprentices can include the experience on their resumes and cover letter.

How to enter an apprenticeship program

Here's a list of steps you can take if you are interested in learning how to enter an apprenticeship program:

1. Look for programs online

The first step to entering an apprenticeship program is to look for options online, as here, you might find different programs in your province or territory of residence. You can search on many websites, especially those that belong to government agencies, unions, non-profit organizations, and companies. It's also important to check on the sites of high schools, colleges, and universities, as some companies offer these programs to these organizations directly.

Related: Examples of Apprenticeship Programs (With Benefits)

2. Fulfill the requirements for the program

Read the program description carefully and identify the specific requirements to enter into it. If you're 17 years old or younger, it might be necessary for you to ask your parents or legal representatives to help you fill out any forms. You can also identify if the organization requires a letter of recommendation from a teacher, college instructor, or university professor. Some organizations can also ask you to write a letter explaining your interest in the program and industry.

Related: How to Start an Apprenticeship (With Benefits)

3. Apply to the program

Before submitting your application, it's important to proofread your documents, as this can help you demonstrate attention to detail skills and the ability to follow instructions. You can ask a family member, friend, or teacher to help you review your application for spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors. Finally, you can send your application and write a message showing your excitement about this opportunity.

Related: How to Write an Apprenticeship Cover Letter (With Example)

Essential skills for apprentices

Here are some skills you might require to learn new skills and develop your career during your apprenticeship:

  • Patience: As the learning process might require months or years, it's important for apprentices to be patient and practise regularly their newly acquired skills and knowledge.

  • Researching skills: Employers and mentors might appreciate apprentices who can research information at home, as this demonstrates interest in the learning process.

  • Active listening skills: To be able to understand a mentor and follow their guidance, it's crucial for apprentices to listen to their instructions and complete the work they assign to them.

  • Computer skills: As many trades and professions involve the use of computers, it's crucial for apprentices to learn how to operate different devices and programs.

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