Lynnard Jenifer always aspired to be an engineer. From his early years growing up in Baltimore, Maryland, he enjoyed working with his hands.
An interest in engineering made sense – but after graduating from high school, Lynnard got an evening job working at a warehouse because he needed the money.
During this stint, he learned through word of mouth about a three-year machinist apprenticeship offered by Magna Baltimore Technical Training Center at a school near his home. When his application was accepted, he quit the warehouse job.
“I knew this was important,” he said.
Lynnard excelled in his program despite having no prior machining experience and finding the work challenging. He wasn’t alone – many other apprentices dropped out. Through perseverance and sheer determination, he kept his grades up and made close friends along the way.
“I was humbled to graduate at the top of my class and happy to enter the workforce, but also sad to leave the program because we were like one big family,” Lynnard said.
After completing the apprenticeship program, Lynnard chose to give back to others by teaching metalworking skills to at-risk youth in the District of Columbia for a year. He then taught metalworking and advanced manufacturing in the Baltimore School District, proudly recalling that one of his students took third place at a state competition for milling and turning.
For the past year, Lynnard has worked as a technical manager with the National Institute for Metalworking Skills in Fairfax, Virginia, which involves developing training and education programs for adults, and traveling around the country to assist with curriculum alignment at schools. He still volunteers in Baltimore.
“If it wasn't for my apprenticeship, I would be working a regular 9-to-5 job. I probably would not have a career and would be in a replaceable position,” he said.
Now 31 years old, his career prospects are still improving. Lynnard is currently working on an undergraduate degree, and hopes to one day own a machine shop and pursue more opportunities to teach.
He wants students and parents to know that blue-collar jobs are very much in need, and are just as important as white-collar jobs. He tells parents who don’t see the value of the skilled trades, “Your child may not be the one that replaces your kneecap, but may be the one who makes the kneecap replacement.”
There are more than 540,000 apprenticeships across the country, with more opportunities added every day. Find a program or learn how to sponsor one at www.dol.gov/apprenticeship.
Briar Gibbons is a public affairs intern with the department’s Office of Public Affairs in Philadelphia.