For many jobs, the best way to learn is to do, and apprenticeships form a critical part of training. For some jobs, it’s the only way.


If you want to become a body piercer or a tattoo artist, you won’t find a community college that can teach you the ropes. Instead, you’ll need to turn to someone like Roger Monahan. He runs BlackStar Body Piercing Studio in Kingston, Ont., and says because the industry is unregulated and not taught as a trade, apprenticeships play a vital role.


“Unfortunately, anyone can pick up a needle and start to do damage,” he says.


Would-be piercers approach Monahan and, if he sees potential, he takes them under his wing for a two-year apprenticeship. They learn to audit a chain of contamination, practice techniques on orange peels to simulate skin and then start with simple piercings on people before advancing to more complex jobs. He makes sure they know what can go wrong so that they can avoid it.

The final stage of an apprenticeship is for Monahan to take on a new apprentice and have the veteran student teach the rookie the skills she just learned.

“It’s more of a one-on-one relationship between the person wanting to learn and the person willing to teach,” he says.

Monahan even issues certificates, which carry weight in a body-piercing world that relies on reputation and word of mouth. It’s the same story in tattooing, he says.

For a list of apprenticeships arcoss Canada, visit