When bringing an apprentice into the workplace, it may feel tempting to walk them through every step of the way.
However, this kind of guidance can be detrimental to their learning, and consistent lecturing and supervision can bore them and make them feel as though they aren’t trusted. An apprenticeship is time for an individual to take their first independent steps in the workplace and find their feet – they are there because they have made a specific choice to take this path for their career, not because they’ve been forced into it!
That being said, apprentices will still look to you for some guidance to initiate themselves comfortably into the business. Therefore, to help build on their commitment, here are some things that may help them settle in, and ensure that they won’t need constant supervision.
If you’re overseeing an apprentice, you should set them clear work plans, and an outline of expectations and targets. The emphasis here is on clarity – apprentices will want to know what they are being assessed on, and whether or not they are doing a good job of it. Obviously, their main goal is to impress you, so make them aware of how they can do that early on.
Try not to assume prior knowledge or use tricky jargon, as this may be intimidating for their first steps into work. Practical sessions such as listening in or work shadowing can at first indicate how the job could be done, and will also give the apprentice a chance to meet different people around the business.
When your apprentice undertakes a new task, make sure they clearly understand why they are doing it, why the task is important, and how they will be assessed on it.
You may also want to consider getting one your more experienced employees to act as a mentor or for the new recruit. A mentor can provide the apprentice with advice and objective feedback, with the kind of supervision that will fit outside the more formal relationship that they will have with a manager.
Try to select an employee who is naturally supportive and helpful, as this may bring the apprentice a little more out of their shell. Not only that, but introducing reverse mentoring will also provide strong benefits for both parties. These more senior staff members will also be upskilled and imbued with new leadership skills.
Providing a well-thought-through induction, in which you will introduce your apprentice to the different departments, will help them to not feel so lost when they first arrive. You will also be providing reassurance of where they can go if certain difficulties arise.
There’s a real benefit of clearly explaining the line of authority, including an introduction to the roles of the supervisors and managers, and this will also give them an understanding of how their role fits into the wider goals of the business.
Adapting to their learning
Needless to say, every person has a certain learning style that suits them – for instance, some individuals learn best from written instructions while others prefer practical demonstration. Giving your apprentice both a theoretical understanding and practical demonstrations will give them the best of both, and then you can assess which way of learning best suits them.
Building a culture of trust
Apprentices should be encouraged to drive their own programme and seek regular feedback, so that they are able to self-assess and improve independently. It takes a great deal of trust to bring someone with limited experience into the workplace, but there are a host of benefits to doing this.
In the period it takes to acclimatize to their new environment, apprentices may make some mistakes. A culture that will punish mistakes will be a culture in which your apprentices will be afraid to learn properly. If mistakes are made or targets not being met, give your apprentices the benefit of the doubt, and assess the situation so that they can learn from them under your leadership.