Becoming a union painter apprentice is fairly simple for anyone who's 18 or older, has a high school diploma and has reliable transportation. The typical program for the IUPAT apprenticeship consists of three years of on-the-job training combined with classroom instruction, but apprentices with prior experience can complete the program in a shorter timeframe. Union painter apprentices are paid union wages while they work, and they receive periodic wage increases.
The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades operates the Finishing Trades Institute, which educates and trains members in the finishing trades. Apprenticeships are available not only in painting and decoration, but also in drywall finishing, floor covering, glazing, signs, and displays and trade shows. In addition, apprentices can train to become hydro blaster and vacuum technicians or industrial coating and lining application specialists. The FTI is located in a state-of-the-art training center in Hanover, Maryland, and operates apprenticeship programs nationwide, so it’s not necessary to travel to Maryland to be trained.
In addition to exhaustive theoretical and practical training in their chosen career paths, union painter apprentices learn a core body of knowledge that includes the finishing trades in general and an introduction to the union, as well as health and safety, leadership and professional development. Apprenticeship in each of the eight career paths includes at least 144 hours of classroom learning as well as the required minimum, or more, annual hours of on-the-job training as stipulated by the Department of Labor.
Once in the program, apprentices are evaluated on their acquisition of the knowledge presented both in the core curriculum and their trade-specific training. These evaluations consist of traditional written exams and the hands-on demonstration of acquired skills, as well as an ongoing assessment of on-the-job performance.
How to Enroll
One of the easiest ways to apply for a union painter apprenticeship program is to sign up online, either on the union’s website or the FTI’s website, following which a representative will contact you, answer all your questions and help you enroll. Alternately, you can find a local painters’ union affiliate near you and contact them for more information about opportunities in your area.
According to the Department of Labor, jobs in the construction industry, which include painters and other career paths in the painters' union, are expected to grow by about 20 percent by 2022, a rate far faster than all jobs on average. Median pay for all painters is about $16.92 per hour; union painters earn higher wages, better health, welfare and retirement benefits, better working conditions, full employment, and more money for training.