If you are interested in working as a contractor in a trade, it can be hard to get people to give you a chance. This is especially true if you lack experience or certification and are suffering from the experience gap, where you’re educated and ready to work but don’t have the experience to qualify for the positions you want. Therefore, it is crucial that you plan ahead and take advantage of the proper resources to stand out. Here is what you should know about your options for taking your skills to the next level and being gainfully employed.

Paid Internships
When people think of internships, they often only think of unpaid interns that do twice the work of an employee for no pay. However, the reality is that many companies are willing to pay people who don’t meet their employee qualifications to come and work for them with pay to get the experience they need within the company itself. The idea is that they are investing in a future long-term employee by taking you in on a trial basis while you obtain practical experience, and by the end of a few months, you’re ready to work with the best of them in the trade. You won't earn quite as much out of the gates, but internships often only last six months and are a way to get your foot in the door for a higher-paying position that is often above entry-level. Even if you decide that company isn’t the right one for you, the internship will have given you both references who can vouch for your work and the practical experience that other companies are looking for. If you know a company you’d like to work under, then reaching out and asking if they have any intern positions open is well worth the call.

Union Apprenticeship
Every industry that you would want to consider will have their own union, especially in trade industries such as plumbing, welding, carpentry, and so on. When you join a union, you instantly gain more credibility, have advocates working to make sure you earn competitive wages, and gain extra protection and job security. However, unions can’t get you a position that you aren’t qualified for. Because they want to ensure that the industry is stocked full of quality trade workers, they often will organize apprenticeships that allow you to get the experience you need while still making competitive wages for your work. For example, welding contractor union recruitment departments will set you up to work under a professional welder, learning from them while on the job and gaining practical, hands-on welding experience along the way. Alternatively, a plumber union recruiter will put you under a professional, certified plumber to learn from them, and so on with each industry. These apprenticeships can often be taken in conjunction with ongoing courses and can even count toward class credit, so discussing programs with a recruiter is well worth your time no matter where you are in your path to certification.

Become a Journeyman
Some professionals in the trades like to jump around and work on a variety of projects without being tied down to a particular company If there are crews working on projects in locations they’re interested in, a journeyman can contact the crew and work alongside them for that specific project. Other times, they become a general contractor that can be leased out to other companies as projects arise. If this appeals to you, then consider developing one specific skill that will be valuable to most crews, and many will allow you to work with them alongside a similarly skilled professional to gain extra hands-on experience at the same time as getting paid for your work.

Taking Practical Application Classes
You don't always need to go through years of schooling to learn a new skill. When it comes down to it, practical application is the priority. Consider taking a few classes to get certified or get introductions to potential clients. While most trade schools have two-year programs, some trades can have you certified with as little as six months of classes, as long as you meet their requirements for hours worked in the field. Doing research on your own can go a long way, as well, and as long as you document what you are studying and how, you can often turn that in to a certification program or university in exchange for class credits.

The contractor arena is one of the most lucrative work industries you can be in. However, it takes more than mere desire. You have to have the right training, tools, and knowledge in order to become a certified professional that everyone will count on, and pay accordingly. Being new to the industry means you have to be smart about how you develop your skills and make yourself more marketable. So, use the tips above and it won’t be long before you’re making a comfortable living as an industry professional contractor.

Author's Bio: 

Anica has a Jack Russell Terrier named Saxon, three daughters that are 13, 11, and 7.