Saturday, May 24, 2008

Lessons Learned

The post today is to answer a question asked of me by a nice young lady wanting to know about apprenticeships. The photo is just a random one I took at the end of the day on the job. We were waiting on the backhoe operator to come with the machine and get the tools to put up. We put them in the bucket of the machine and have him carry them to and from the shed as there are way too many for us to carry.
Anyway, Charlotte, to answer your question: There are different types of apprenticeships, depending on if it is a trade or craft you are learning, but basically you work for a journeyman or master doing all the tedious, everyday work of the craft in exchange for lessons taught by the craftperson. It is somewhat like a college degree as apprenticeships usually last 4 years and at the end you must pass certain tests etc. and produce work of a certain quality in order to be set up as a journeyman. In our line of work, the apprentices work on our jobs and at the same time attend school one day a week, in the afternoon, which is also taught by the older carpenters. In each class they are required to build at least one project and there is also written exams etc. I sometimes teach the welding class and during the last 2 weeks of class I require my boys to construct an item of their choosing. They have already spent the majority of the class time learning the technicalities of welding and then apply them to a project. Craft apprenticeships are similar in that you learn from the master as you work for them and then usually you are given use of the studio in the after hours to produce work of your own. Generally, the master will give you some guidelines about what they want you to make. Obviously, our apprentices are paid and I think most in the crafts receive at least some small stipend for their labor.
I will tell you this, most apprenticeships are designed to be somewhat hard. A lot of our boys have trouble with this idea on our jobs but it weeds out the ones who are not really interested in the work. As an apprentice you are the lowest man on the totem pole, if you know what I mean. The laborers even have authority over our apprentices. You will get every crap job there is. It's not meant to demean you in any way but you must learn every aspect, good and bad, of the craft you want to pursue. I have read that the potters apprentices in Japan must sweep the floor and clean up after the masters for 2 years before they are even allowed to touch any clay. We are not that bad on ours but they often complain that the foreman doesn't think the shovels fit anybody's hands but the apprentices.
I hope this info helps. Most women would do well to learn some kind of trade skills as it adds tremendously to your self confidence levels and self reliance.

*Alicia Keys


Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

Your appenticeship system seems a lot looser than ours. In Canada, the government regulates some trades setting the standards and course of study and in the end arranges the certification testing.

I was indentured to my father, who was a master electrician. He owned a company so I seldomed worked directly under him. I learned from the other journeymen.

Here there are protections built in so the apprenctice is not exloited and continues to learn different aspects of the trade. A company can have one apprentice for the shop and after that only one for every four journeymen hired. The union, IBEW, sets this rule. (protects jouneymen's jobs.)

An apprenctice can be moved to another company if he is only doing one aspect of the trade in one setting. (Perhaps, not getting any industrial experience.)

Here an apprentice must spend 3 months in school each year to learn the technical side of the trade. During this time he can collect social assistance to get by on.

The union, also runs supplimental classes weekends so that their aprenctices get to know some of the latest aspects of the trade. I learned some electronics before computers and electronics became a part of the trade.

I went to trade school late in life after I had earned 2 university degrees and worked for 6 years. (35) I was almost old enough to be the father of some of the young apprentices.

Being the boss's son I found myself, not only the apprenctice but also the foreman on a big job.
Later, as an apprentice, I also ran a service truck. In the end, there was a time when I was the apprentice and also the owner of the company. At th same time I took the training to become an electrical estimator. A rather unusual apprenticeship. I got to learn more than most apprentices.

Charlotte said...

Thank you for the post! I really appreciate you spending time writing this, and I hope it will benefit many more girls like me to be all of who we can be. I'm planning to go to college possibly a year after I graduate and I'll try to major in biology or something to do with animals(I'm also interested in becoming a zookeeper). In the year between school, I'd like to have my dad teach me some about woodworking, since he used to build furniture. Again, thank you for the post, and I hope you have a lovely day!


edifice rex said...

Hey Philip! Well, actually ours is regulated too, I just did not get into all that. Our company has their own apprenticeship program, which recieves some funding from the government, so therefore, we must follow their guidelines. We are non-union but there are still plenty of union electrical contractors, pipe fitters etc. in the area and their programs sound alot like what you discribe. In fact, I worked with some of the IBEW boys on the church job I was on last year. It was weird, half of that company was union and half non. Our boys go to school one day a week but year 'round except for a short break in the summer. Our apprentices are also not allowed to work for their fathers as it is common here for our superindentent's sons to follow them. After they are set up to journeymen though they can.
Yours sounds like a very interesting career in the trades.
Art or craft apprenticeships though are very casual and completely unregulated as far as I know.

Sure thing Charlotte! Yes, it sounds from your blog that you would be very interested in biology or something similar but it never hurts to learn how to use tools etc. Good luck!