Part 4: The Apparatus, My Enemy & Other Choices

My intention for this post is to share my experience, and for it to serve as a reference point/resource for women interested in entering the trades.  This is continued series, so I hope you find some portion of this helpful! See all parts at this link: CLICK HERE - h!

There was absolutely no way to prepare for the aptitude test.  Any Google search lead you to nothing – no study guides, no sample questions.  My friends and I who were scheduled to take the aptitude test were scrambling.  The only leads we had were those already in various trade unions who were able to guide us based on their own aptitude tests years ago.  So, at the risk of having received very dated information, my friends and I explored every avenue possible.

To prepare, some reviewed using a TABE prep book.  Others practiced on an apparatus that I can only describe as the “peg test” which was rumored to be used by the local to measure dexterity.  Because I didn’t have access to a “peg test” apparatus, I secretly wished and hoped that it wouldn’t be on the test.

On test day itself, the aptitude test was just that – it measured each candidate’s potential.  There was a written portion and a practical portion. The version of the test that we took, which was administered by the DOL (which oversees all trade apprenticeship programs in NY), consisted of a number of analogies.  These were very similar to the ones found on the SAT.  Another part covered spatial reasoning, and matched shapes and their mirrored/rotated versions with one another. With both sections, there was no way to complete the timed tests. There were more questions than the short 6-8 minutes would allow.

Then, the dreaded practical portion:  IT WAS THE PEG TEST!  I couldn’t find the exact game/apparatus online, but there were a couple of similar products.  The peg board looks like a hybrid of the two boards pictured below.


It’s definitely more like the “Big-Little Pegboard”, but the size of the pegs are closer to the white ones on the curved board.  The facilitators instructed us on how to maneuver the pieces through the board during a series of 15-second and 30-second rounds.

From my observation, I was doing pretty well in my group.  I was doing so well, that I think the test proxy thought I was cheating. He came over and observed me three times to make sure I didn’t have any tricks up my sleeve, and it affected my last round since he distracted me a bit.

This process began for me in July.  To date, it’s taken about 6 months. I have been unemployed, so I have taken the opportunity to pursue other educational avenues in the meantime. What you have to keep in mind as you apply to trade locals for an apprenticeship is that each union will differ in the amount of time their hiring process takes place.  A number of my friends and I have grown frustrated in the wait as our bills sing for payment.  Some of us have taken part time jobs in the meantime. I just want you to take this as a caveat and plan on how you’ll preoccupy yourself in the meantime.

For highly coveted positions, the wait time may be even years. Some trade unions don’t open up the public application process as frequently, have limited positions, or are in high demand. At times, applicants are expected to put their lives on hold in the wait, which involves a number of interviews and various daytime testing.   (Just to make clear that you will find some difficultly taking time off if you are currently employed and looking to begin an apprenticeship.) Therefore, please expect to interview, job hunt, and keep current on any requirements for the jobs or public benefits you may need. If you’re dead set on having a trade career, then this sacrifice isn’t much.

Which brings us to now…
After the rounds of testing all candidates, the only thing left is to see where I rank so that I determine whether I make the cutoff point. Then, it’d be time for the drug test. As I wait for that letter in the mail, wish me luck, and I’ll update in Part 5!

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