Most of the union employers I know have at one time or another complained about the quality of their apprentices. For sure the reviews over the last few years is that the training is getting better, the instructors are more professional and that they see progress. But the reality of the situation is this: the union and apprentice program only have their hands on an apprentice for around 10% of their hours during apprenticeship. The employer has him or her for the other 90%.
In my view then, the quality of the apprentices reflects the employer community’s ability and commitment to developing the apprentices. Their complaints might be best directed at the mirror.
This is a big shift in mindset. Most employers want to simply call the union hall and get a qualified individual sent out ASAP. But in the case of apprentices, this is simply unrealistic. That 90% of on-the-job training is going to make all the difference in their performance, attitude, and behavior. The link here is for the foremen and lead men on the jobs. Employers need to communicate to them the critical importance of coaching and development.
Apprentices cannot be the necessary evil or the pain in the ass new guy or girl. Apprentices are the foundation for the future. And employers, whether they like it or not, have the majority of the responsibility to develop apprentices into top craft workers. This is a conversation that has to occur time and again until they get it. Most will reject it, thinking that is what the union is for. But this discounts the partnership that labor and management must engage in. Whoever wins the War of Talent, wins the War for Market share.
Remember, the partnership of talent development is an absolute necessity – so reach out to at least one employer a month to ask for the necessary help and support to build our next generation.