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No. 5

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Survey Profiles: Apprenticeship In Action

While we’ve selected two survey respondents to demonstrate how apprenticeships offer a viable alternative to other career paths, HSLDA wants to thank the many families who participated in our survey.

These two stories reflect a full-time apprenticeship commitment that began toward the end of homeschooling, but you don’t have to wait until the teen years to begin exploring apprenticeship opportunities with your children. You can begin as early as they begin to evidence an interest in a field and an ability to responsibly contribute within the context of that field.

Courtesy of the Family
The Donnell family, from left: Tamara, Britney, Blake, Bric, Dave and Robie. Both Blake and Bric explored their dad’s field through an apprenticeship. Blake moved on to carpentry, but Bric is becoming a journeyman field service engineer.

The Donnell Brothers

Blake, 27, and Bric Donnell, 22, were homeschooled from the beginning. Their parents, Dave and Robie, felt that their children should be allowed to explore their gifts and talents without any preconceptions about whether they should attend college or get right into a career. Dave and Robie were not against college and felt that if God called their children to a career that required higher education they would support that.

A field service engineer, Dave repairs and maintains highly complex pieces of sensitive lab equipment, and his large service region frequently takes him away from home. As a homeschooling family, the Donnells were able to pack up their books and join Dave on the road. Exposed to their father’s work on the road as well as at home when he would bring back equipment for further study and repair, the boys were able to see what he did and how he did it.

After Blake explored horse training and farrier training during the later stages of his homeschool program, he spent about six months with his dad as a service engineer apprentice. Blake determined that this was not the field he felt called to. He ultimately became a carpenter and works for himself as a general contractor.

Bric, on the other hand, always felt a keen draw to the equipment his dad worked on. He devoted his entire final year of homeschooling to apprenticing with his dad to determine if this was his chosen field.

When Dave requested training for his son from Hewlett Packard (now known as Agilent) he was told that training prerequisites for field service engineers were a bachelor’s degree in science and 2-5 years of field experience. But the company was willing to explore the training idea with Dave and told him to come back after his son had a year of field experience. After his year in the field with Dave, Bric was permitted to take the training course. He passed and was highly commended by the instructor.

At 22 and in his fourth year of work, Bric is becoming a journeyman field service engineer. He goes on service calls on his own and has tackled a training course to work on new, even more complex equipment than his dad has worked on.

Part of the apprenticeship agreement between father and son was that Bric would live at home and save money to either build or buy a home. Dave says, “He has now learned a trade and will be a ‘journeyman’ in the field by the end of this year. Apprenticing Bric has been a wonderful experience. We’ve had time to develop a wonderful relationship and I am so thankful to the Lord for his blessings as we've followed His leading through this process of training our sons.”

Bric enjoys working with his father. “I remember as a kid at 7 or 8 watching him work on these machines at home. I always enjoyed the hands-on kind of activities. And this is a perfect job for me. Working in the family business allows me to stay close to my family.”
Although Britney Hamby originally planned to attend a junior college, she found that in her culinary apprenticeship she is “learning more, earning more, [and] having a lot more fun.”

Britney Hamby

Britney Hamby serves as a cook in an apprenticeship program with the prestigious West Pace Hotel Group. She found out about the program through friends from church who had heard that the executive chef of the company, Peter Schoch, was looking for apprentices.

As an apprentice working full-time in the kitchen, Britney has quickly had to master many details, including the ultimate test of customer expectations.

“I’ve been here a lot longer than most of the people here even though I’ve only been here for a year,” she says. “At this point, I’ve been trained on all the stations and the head chef knows that he can rely on me to train others who are new. I really love getting to learn things hands-on. I feel like I learn a lot faster this way than sitting in a classroom and reading a book.”

Britney considered going to a culinary school, but she knew that going to a top hotel culinary program would be financially difficult. And Britney felt that, for her, it just didn’t make sense to go into that much debt for a college education. Through her apprenticeship, Britney is getting some of the same experience as college students—she works alongside students from the Auburn University Hotel and Restaurant Management program.

“By not going to school, I miss out on a lot of social time with my friends,” she concedes. “I work 12-13 hours a day. But I just love what I’m doing. I had planned to go to a junior college culinary program because it was the cheapest one I could find. But with this apprenticeship program I am learning more, earning more, having a lot more fun, and will have the opportunity to travel all over the world, learning and cooking.”

Britney says her head chef was an apprentice, too: “[He] didn’t go to college. In Europe, they have a lot more apprenticeships. Chef Peter said that he thought that the American idea that everyone had to have a college degree was a little odd. He never went to college and has been an executive chef all over the world after going through his own apprenticeship program.”

As a young homeschooler, Britney’s exposure to cooking at her mom’s side contributed to her current love for the culinary arts.

“When I was young, my mom would assign us a week to prepare a menu for the family,” Britney explains. “And we’d have to also take our turn cooking meals on certain days. I just really loved that and I got to enjoy the food and the preparation and the whole process. I would watch cooking shows sometimes and the Food Network, and this was just a real area of interest for me.”

Working for a company that is training her well and giving her many opportunities, Britney is realizing the tremendous benefits available to homeschoolers who are willing to consider the apprenticeship approach to education.