Brandon Archilla, a former barber and truck driver, is now on his way to an all-expenses paid path that will lead him to a six-figure salary. He’s one of 525 students getting paid to learn a trade at a five-year plumbing apprenticeship program in New York City, run by Plumbers Local Union 1 in Queens. Competition for the program is stiff, and demand is high. Archilla was one of thousands who literally lined up in the street when applications became available. ‘I waited on line for three days, slept on the street,’ said Archilla. ‘About a year later they called me to get in, which is probably the best thing that’s happened to me.’ As part of the program, Archilla gets paid $14 an hour to attend school and work under supervision. At the end of five years, he will earn more than $65 an hour as a journeyman plumber, and walk away with an Associates Degree in Science from The State University of New York’s Empire State College. The best thing about it? Archilla pays absolutely nothing for the training. Tuition is free. ‘We all know that college isn’t for everybody. We call our program the other four year degree,’ said Brent Booker, Secretary-Treasurer of North America’s Building Trades Unions. ‘You get skills training, you earn while you learn.’ The federal government has declared this as the first ever National Apprenticeship Week, and the North American Building Trades Union is hosting open houses in more than 15 cities this week, to raise awareness about apprenticeship programs.
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