Reach back into your memory to recall all the things you had to learn when you were but a wee apprentice on your first crew. You learned a lot of practical, hands-on skills, sure, but you probably also learned a lot about how to behave on the jobsite.
These lessons aren’t something new electricians pick up from a book or in a classroom: being productive and reliable are skills passed down from one generation to the next. When you’re training an apprentice, part of your job is whipping them into shape to handle the job.
Be a Good Example
Much like the babies they are, apprentices will model the behavior they see. So be a good role model for your apprentices. The best way to get them to be productive and reliable is to ensure you are. Now’s the time to break out your best behavior and show them what you expect from them.
Expect – and model – a gold standard of productivity and reliability and you’ll likely see the same from the apprentices under your supervision. You’re their real-world example of how life after an apprenticeship works – there’s no harm in modeling the values of productivity and reliability.
There’s an art to delivering critiques, but there’s no sense hemming and hawing. If your apprentice isn’t being productive, reliable or meeting standards, tell them. Just be sure to notice when they are, too. Feed your apprentice a steady stream of feedback – negative and positive – to let them know what they are and aren’t doing well.
If you don’t tell them, they’ll never know if there’s an issue they can improve upon. You don’t need to hammer them over the head with harsh criticisms or needless praise, but point out good and bad behavior in equal measures, if possible.
Set Goals and Boundaries
If there’s a productivity standard for your apprentices, set a goal and see if they can meet or surpass it. If there’s a line they should never cross, make it clear. Set the bare minimum of accountability higher than it really is, and give your apprentices goals to aim for. If they fail to meet the minimum expectations, handle it like it would be handled in the real world with natural consequences and follow through. An apprenticeship is a learning experience and you’re helping prepare them for the rest of their lives.
Teaching Productivity and Reliability
You can’t really teach the qualities of productivity and reliability, but you can encourage your electrical apprentices to develop a healthy sense of both by modeling it for them and making your needs and expectations clear – and, if necessary, enforcing consequences for a lack of these two qualities.
Reliability is tied into respect for others you work with and productivity is tied into respect for the job at hand and the clients you serve. Without that basic level of respect, you may have a hard time fostering these qualities in your apprentice. Let them know what they are doing right and what could use improvement and keep them on the right track.
Your apprentice is learning from you and it’ll set the tone for the rest of their career, so set them up for a good start and use teachable moments as they occur.