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Old 12-21-2016, 07:46 PM   #1
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Question Small Shop - Apprentice utilization

I ventured out on my own (residential, small jobs) approximately 1 year ago. I started the year working alone. It confirmed how much I dislike working alone and it also made some jobs impossible to do or incredibly inefficient. Within a few months I added an apprentice. I am on my third apprentice now. I have plenty of work and have kept both of us busy pretty much full time for a few months. My apprentice has a family to support and feeding him full time hours is important to him.

The challenge is that there are many tasks that do not require and cannot properly utilize two people. Particularly with a very green apprentice who cannot be left to start or continue jobs without me present. Most of these other tasks are administrative / sales in nature. Site visits for quotes, pulling permits, attending inspections, ordering and picking up stock are the most common things.

Wherever possible I perform these tasks outside of normal business hours. At times though it is not practical and I get incredibly overworked doing all of these activities outside of my base 40 hours.

What are some approaches others use to handle this? Any advice?

Cheers!

Jim
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Old 12-21-2016, 07:55 PM   #2
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Not really a subject in my realm of business as our company has varying levels of apprentices and drivers, but I will make an observation. Would you be better off with say a retired person part time to do the mundane running around an non skilled work and a part time apprentice with lesser financial needs? Both of these positions coming in under 35 hours a week total man hours.
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Old 12-21-2016, 08:05 PM   #3
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Can you afford to have him sitting on the phones, cleaning shop, vehicles, picking up dry cleaning? Maybe canvasing areas with flyers or trying to pound the pavement or cold calling and finding work? I only venture out to those odd areas because you really want to feed him hours.... Maybe try to increase some easier jobs for filler? Or have him shadow you even in 1 man places?
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Old 12-21-2016, 08:17 PM   #4
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What year is the apprentice? Our resi apprentices are JW's after a two year apprenticeship.
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Old 12-21-2016, 08:22 PM   #5
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Mcasey - Those are good suggestions. I really like the retired person to deal with the permits and maybe even meeting with the inspector. I also think that I might not be the best fit for an apprentice that needs to know he is getting 40 hours every week.
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Old 12-21-2016, 08:23 PM   #6
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Majewski - I do need to start him on cleaning up the shop (detached garage) when I have inspections to do, good idea.
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Old 12-21-2016, 08:28 PM   #7
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What year is the apprentice? Our resi apprentices are JW's after a two year apprenticeship.
When he started with me a few months ago he had general construction experience but no experience as an electrical apprentice. He is still so green that I need to be there to make sure he knows what to do. He tries hard and he is learning, it is just that he is not there yet. No knock on him. In 6 months I expect it will be different. Making it more difficult is the fact that we do a whole bunch of different things, and most of them are old work. So it is not like he spends several weeks roughing in houses, practicing the same few things over and over again. We might do three recess lighting jobs and then not do recess lights for a few weeks, then run UF cable for a 3 day job and then not run it again for two months. Then run PVC underground to a hot tub, then not touch PVC for a few weeks ...
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Old 12-21-2016, 08:28 PM   #8
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Majewski - I do need to start him on cleaning up the shop (detached garage) when I have inspections to do, good idea.
Always a challenge to keep helpers busy and "care" about their income....
It could be a lot easier once you have a good jw rolling. Then all you need to worry about is if those two can work together without you needing to babysit. lol
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Old 12-21-2016, 08:44 PM   #9
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Quote:
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Mcasey - Those are good suggestions. I really like the retired person to deal with the permits and maybe even meeting with the inspector. I also think that I might not be the best fit for an apprentice that needs to know he is getting 40 hours every week.
Thank you. Every business needs a gopher or "water spider" that runs here and there mostly being a warm body for mundane tasks and an able body for the menial labor intenive tasks. You as a business owner need to increasingly focus on growing the business.
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Old 12-21-2016, 09:12 PM   #10
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You need an apprentice and It's the cost of doing business. When you grow a little more add a journeyman and then it will free up a lot of your time being that you can leave him and the apprentice to work together
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Old 12-21-2016, 11:23 PM   #11
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I thought the trick was to hire a j-man first and help him when he needs it? Then when it gets to be too much, give the j-man an apprentice?

It would be tough to have an apprentice when you're the only one in the shop.

I'd think I'd switch gears and hire a j-man stat, then you can focus on bids and growing the business.
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Old 12-22-2016, 05:43 AM   #12
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Quote:
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I thought the trick was to hire a j-man first and help him when he needs it? Then when it gets to be too much, give the j-man an apprentice?

It would be tough to have an apprentice when you're the only one in the shop.

I'd think I'd switch gears and hire a j-man stat, then you can focus on bids and growing the business.
True this.
I spent 5 years doing it the wrong way like the OP. Much ragets.
The only thing keeping the OP on his tools is ego not economics.
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Old 12-22-2016, 05:32 PM   #13
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you should help him get a job at a company that can give him a proper apprenticeship and find some one who wants to work part time. He likely is a nice guy otherwise you wouldn't care to even make this post, you won't be doing him a favour just bouncing around doing odd jobs...

the other option is you charge the customer slightly more to have him there and hand you tools and shadow you, he would benefit huge from that also
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Old 12-22-2016, 05:42 PM   #14
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True this.
I spent 5 years doing it the wrong way like the OP. Much ragets.
The only thing keeping the OP on his tools is ego not economics.
What the hell is a ragets? (Geez I may end up regretting this...)
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Old 12-23-2016, 02:10 AM   #15
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What the hell is a ragets? (Geez I may end up regretting this...)
ragets --> regrets, I think.

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