Is it me? Or are all apprentices these days just useless?You?ve spent between six months and four years bringing your apprentice up to speed and then they leave.They don?t listen.They fiddle with their iPhone.You have to tell them over and over again.Can every single one of them be dopey, disinterested and totally disengaged?Where did I go wrong?
These are all frustrations that cross employers? minds but do not alone sum up an apprentice?s disengagement. Statistical and anecdotal evidence suggests those employers that have been in business for 10 or more years are far more likely to retain their apprentices and get them through to completion. Those employers who have been in business for less than five years are more likely to achieve low retention rates. The question is: Why?
Experience as a boss with apprentices matters. The reality is that the more experience employers have had with apprentices and the more positive it has been, the more likely they are to keep getting good results. They learn from their mistakes and listen to advice.
Whereas over 95 per cent of interviewed employers rate themselves as a good boss, unfortunately apprentices don?t agree. Less than 75 per cent say they have a good boss and in some groups this is as low as 49 per cent.
Current apprentices don?t respond well to employers who say, ?I learned that way so that?s how you?ll learn.? In some cases, it seems to lead to bad work practices and it doesn?t fit with Gen Y notions of contemporary employment.
However, personal experience as an apprentice ? the boss who started out as an apprentice himself ? can be both a positive and negative influence. Some of those who trained as an apprentice retain the lowest number of apprentices; in fact those employers who report low retention rates with apprentices are most likely to say that?s how they got their start and to think of themselves as a good boss.
Attitude as a boss also matters. The attitude of the employer can greatly contribute to the cause of apprentices not completing. Gen Y apprentices are quick to pick up the clues from their employers; they feel that they are already sacrificing wages in exchange
for training and respond negatively to employers who harp on about profitability and costly mistakes.
The time you spend mentoring matters. Eighty per cent of apprentice bosses not only run the business but also look after the apprentice?s pay and conditions. That puts enormous time pressures on employers who want to help their apprentice complete their qualification, but who feel they just can?t find the time to mentor. That can put an apprentice in a difficult position if they want to talk to someone about a work problem, a pay rise or their working conditions.
However, the employers with good retention rates, even if they are in small businesses, tend to have someone looking after or helping out with HR matters. Successful employers also take the apprenticeship relationship seriously and make sure that they are doing what they are supposed to do for the apprentice; they stick to the deal in practice as well as on paper.
Gen Y doesn?t respond well to an old fashioned, authoritarian boss or hierarchical workplaces; most want a mentor, someone who will be interested in them rather than bark out orders, someone they can talk to, someone who treats them fairly. Not surprisingly, those employers who have a positive attitude to their apprentices, who appear to like and value them and are willing to listen to them, get the best results.
Interestingly, some of the most traditional and authoritarian employers also get good results some of the time; their ability to retain an apprentice through to completion appears to be related to the match in personality and work style between the two. Some young people are also more able or willing to work with a tough boss than others. However, research suggests that they are a minority.
LEARNING FROM OTHERS
Learning from other employers matters. The larger businesses, with the best track records, are most likely to say that they have been influenced by their industry body, whereas MEGT?s research indicates low retention rate employers don?t take advice from anyone.
The more successful employers have also established some guidelines for recruiting workers and apprentices and most importantly, take input or advice from others ? eg partners, colleagues, industry associations ? about recruiting, employing and managing apprentices.
Matching the apprentice to the trade matters. Not only are one in three apprentices likely to leave their apprenticeship in the first year, of the 55 per cent that complete, some leave the trade immediately after they qualify. That means you?ve just wasted four years in getting them up to speed. Why did that happen?
Feedback from MEGT?s apprentices is that they were dedicated to finishing and had a good work attitude. But they never did like that particular trade. Carrying out some type of testing to see if the job seeker is right for your trade is clearly well worth doing.
Colin McCabe is general manager for MEGT Recruitment and Management Services.