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Doubling Down on Success: Amber & Clay's Apprenticeship Story

Training Fund-supported Trailblazer Apprentices Amber Burney and Clay Watkins featured on US Department of Labor blog 

September 1st, 2017 | Text by Leni Uddyback-Fortson, US DOL: Helping others has always been second nature to Clay Watkins and Amber Burney. Engaged to be married, both dream of pursuing careers in the social services field: Clay as a mobile therapist and Amber as a social worker. A new opportunity has them one step closer to that goal.

Clay and Amber now work full-time as apprentices, serving in direct support professional roles at SPIN Inc. The Philadelphia non-profit serves people of all ages with autism and intellectual/developmental disabilities. 

SPIN's Human Services apprenticeship program, which began in spring 2017, was a lifeline for the two native Philadelphians, who were jobless and facing financial difficulties after a brief stint helping Amber’s mother in Alabama.

Amber was the first to look into the program, following up on a recommendation from her grandmother. She had just started pursuing a bachelor’s degree in sociology by taking online courses with Asher University. The program was the perfect complement.

It wasn’t long before Clay’s interest was piqued while tagging along with Amber on program-related appointments, and he decided to pursue the same path.

“I actually started to enjoy myself and learn more, which made me like it,” said Clay.

After completing a pre-apprenticeship program, the couple was selected by SPIN. They will complete their apprenticeships in July 2018.

Besides their wedding date on Oct. 27, 2018, Clay and Amber are looking forward to a bright professional future. They each see the apprenticeship program as a springboard for their careers and offer the following advice to anyone considering the program: “Take advantage of the opportunity because it leads to a career. Make the sacrifice. It’s worth it.”

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Apprenticeship can work for everyone, no matter your age or background. On-the-job training opportunities can be found in many different fields. Learn more at

Joanna Hawkins is the deputy director of public affairs for the US Department of Labor in Philadelphia.