A Word from an Apprentice What does apprenticeship mean to you?

Acie Mathews
Operating Engineer, Operating Engineers Local 3

“I was made aware of the apprenticeship program through a wonderful woman named Denise, who’d directed me to visit the website and fill out the application. Not too long after, I received my first correspondence back from the JATC stating they had received my application and were going to be in touch.

I received the second letter months later, inviting me up to Rancho Murieta to take the Armed Services vocational aptitude battery test. This consisted of some computer questions that tested your math and reading skills. Then, they tested your ability to work with your hands, by screwing objects on and off a circuit board. It ended with something of an agility test, where they put us on a computer with two joysticks, and tested your motor skills to see if you can make two points touch. When I completed the test, I was asked what union hall I would be working from. I told them Stockton.

Months later, I was called in for an interview at the district office in Stockton. I went to the interview, was hired and given a slip with instructions to report to the ranch for training on Monday morning. That following Monday, I reported to the Probation Orientation Period (POP) training in Rancho Murieta. They checked everyone in before separating us by our classes and instructors, and sent us to classrooms to begin training.

POP training for me consisted of five weeks of in-class and on-the-field training. Every week we were tested in class and challenged on a different machine. We were tested at the end of the week on everything we’d learned. I graduated from POP and placed myself on the out of work list at the Stockton union, and was called within a few days to go to work. With each job I’ve gained experience and learned techniques operating different machines.

It takes five steps to graduate the apprenticeship. With every step you have to visit the ranch for two weeks and challenge yourself on two machines. At the end of each week, you take a written and skills test, in order to certify you on the machines. These are all of the necessary requirements leading up to graduating the apprenticeship and becoming a journeyman. 

This work has instilled so much pride in me that I am now embarking on a career as a general contractor. I hope to shine a light on the industry in terms of advocating for African Americans, high school graduates and those that are disadvantaged, so that we all can share in the pride of building up America. This all has been made possible through the operating engineers apprenticeship program giving me the opportunity to join, and I am forever grateful.”

July 2022