Click here to see the basic outline that D.G. Liu Contractor uses to train young siding apprentices like Donnie Clayton. The company also has apprenticeships for framing and trim carpenters; click here to see outlines of those programs.

Apprenticeships are designed to last for four years, "but they're not necessarily going to get there in four years," says Jerry Liu, owner. "Some will get there faster, others slower."

"The idea is the employee works their way through the apprenticeship with crew leader or Level IV being their goal," says Terry Ensor, production manager. The program "helps retain good people as they know what is expected of them, get paid to learn, and have written steps on how to increase their income and crew level status."

To flesh out the benchmarks, "we asked each crew leader to define what they need at each level - the tools, skills, and knowledge," Liu says. "We made the benchmarks even across different specialties so the pay levels are the same. By years three and four, they start cross-training."Besides giving apprentices specific goals, the program "also gives us hiring measures," Liu says. "If we're recruiting somebody with some experience, we can show them the levels and ask them to indicate where they are. They'll know there's a future and a rough timetable for getting there."