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How to get the most out of your metalworking apprentice

By: Grant King, IndustrySearch Writer
24 March, 2016

Okay, so you’ve decided to hire an apprentice metalworker rather than a seasoned pro. Good for you!

The pro will always find work, but the new kid on the metalworking block needs a break to get going in the industry. And while your apprentice will be young and green, they'll be super keen and bring with them a bunch of basic skills, not to mention some apprenticeship perks. So here are a few ways to make the most of your new recruit.

The shape of things to come

This is likely to be your metalworking apprentice's first real job, so they'll be both nervous and enthusiastic. Manage the nerves by easing them into the role and keeping expectations realistic and comfortable. Manage the enthusiasm by channelling it positively. Remember, your apprentice is unlikely to be tarnished by prior employment experiences and, as a young worker at the start of their career, they won't yet be set in their ways. You therefore have the enviable opportunity to mould their skills and work habits to suit your business and culture. Acquaint them with the way you operate both professionally and socially from the very beginning.

The road map

Any worker, no matter what their role, works best when they know where they're going and what's expected of them. So make sure they know. Clearly spell out their short term and long term goals and what attaining those goals will mean for the company. It's all very well to say ‘Weld this,' but if they know exactly what they're welding, who for, and what the successful completion of that project will do for the business, they'll feel more engaged and motivated.

Keeping it on the record

If your apprentice is working for you via a reputable training institution, most of the paperwork will be done for you – WorkCover, superannuation, income protection, sick days and so on. All you have to do is oversee all this and make sure their records, progress reports, and legal bits and bobs are up to date.

Making the most of mentoring

Another great plus with employing an apprentice from a proper training institute is that they will likely come to you with their own professional mentor. This highly useful side perk is basically on call to deal with any disputes or work-related problems if you're too busy to deal with such things yourself. Mentors deal with apprentices every day so they're a skilled and knowledgeable ally to have as you guide your new worker on towards greater things.

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Hedley James | Thursday, March 24, 2016, 3:18 AM
Our apprentice completes his time this year and we then face the decision on when, not if, to start the next one. The loss of new trades people is a reality as soon as they complete their time. Many reasons from pay through to using the trade to step up into other careers. But back to the article: Good points on establishing constructive communications with the apprentice. It is very important that they know where their work goes, the importance of doing the work correctly, and understanding more than just the basic trade skills. That means internal training that adds to what their TAFE course covers. The industry that our business is involved in is planning an E-Learning approach to cover the internal training within our Group's ten family businesses. Collectively, we identified this back in 2013 and will vote on the proposal in May at our conference. The concept will extend to the training of other metal trades people to cross train into our industry without relying on TAFE. The point raised on a new, presumably young, apprentice not being tarnished by other employment experiences, misses the issues that come from poor education department "experiences". Young school leavers unfortunately bring a lack of discipline with them. In our experience this comes from the school culture where a lack of discipline fails to prepare the new employee for accepting instructions from a foreman. One of many examples, involved not following instructions to use a milling machine to accurately drill out a damaged stud. Instead, the apprentice wrestled with the assembly, got it wedged into his left arm and shoulder, and was about to attack it with his other arm and a strong air drill. The OH&S problem was one slip would have had the drill through his elbow. I had another many years back where a chisel was to be used to cut the top out of a 220 litre drum. As soon as the foreman turned his back, the lad grabbed the oxy torch and the drum went past his left ear, through the tin roof, and landed in the street as soon as the solvents exploded. But a good article.