4 secrets to success with apprentices
Ask any tradie, and they’ll tell you the first year of having apprentices around feels a bit like having a toddler in the workplace. They’re green and need a lot of training to understand the lay of the land.
Don’t worry though — this doesn’t mean you’ll have to wait two or three years for them to start adding value. Follow these four tips and you’ll get more out of your apprentices sooner, rather than later.
Get them up to speed quickly
You can’t just throw apprentices in the deep end. For many, this is their first full-time job, so they’ll need to learn the ropes of being on the job as well as learn new skills.
That’s why the best way to get your apprentices up and running is to start them out with jobs where they can learn and retain information. Put them on tasks that are repetitive and straightforward, new housing projects are ideal for this as the work is well laid out. After six months, they should have the base level of knowledge needed to progress to other tasks, like renovations or simple maintenance jobs.
Document an induction plan that takes your apprentice through the basics of your business and your expectations of them as an employee. Think dress code, hours of operation and how they’ll balance work time with their study. Be sure to also cover off access to amenities, who to contact if they are sick and any important business policies and procedures, like Health and Safety.
Maximise the efficiency of existing tradies
Apprentices should be used to make other tradespeople more effective. The key is to work smarter, not harder — and that means having apprentices do easier tasks, while seasoned tradies take on the high value work.
Assign your trades apprentices to the tasks that your existing tradies don’t need to be doing, such as digging water mains, getting out the cables, drilling holes, and cleaning the spouting. You’ll get more done as a team, and everyone will be playing to their strengths.
Keep an eye on your apprentices
Legislation requires apprentices to be fully supervised and for good reason. Apprentices who are left to their own devices could make big mistakes that will end up costing everyone time and money, as well as potentially endangering themselves and others.
Dedicate the resources on hand to invest in properly supervising and guiding your apprentice, particularly in that crucial first year. You’ll also need plenty of patience — apprentices will inevitably make errors and ask questions as part of the learning process.
For simple tasks your apprentices will need to do often, create a Checklist in your Job Management App that lists step-by-step instructions they can follow and tick off as they go.
Focus on engagement
Apprentices often get stuck with the grunt work, which can cause them to lose interest fast. It’s not your job to motivate your apprentices, but providing them with opportunities to learn and upskill can only help keep them engaged in their work. You can set the scene for their future too, by giving clear direction on career progression and the goals or milestones they need to hit to get there.
Culture counts as well. Make sure they feel supported and thank them for their work, no matter how mundane the task. A positive working environment and little gestures go a long way. The odd lunch shout will not only keep your tradies on site being productive for more hours in the day, but can make your apprentices feel valued and want to keep showing up. They’ll also be more likely to stick around once they’re qualified, which is the ultimate outcome.
If your apprentice proves themselves, pay them what they are worth (and in line with market rates) especially once they are qualified or nearing being so. Even if your relationship is good, holding off rewarding them financially will only led them to look elsewhere.