I have a blog over at Posterous where I also post short sharp painting tips…
Training – painting and decorating apprenticeships
Small businesses need new blood in order to expand. The default position in the decorating trade is to look to local colleges for students to fill painting and decorating apprenticeships, and bring youngsters up through the ranks. Martin Dunn has a vacancy, and lays out the reality of finding an apprentice. It doesn’t quite gel with how we are told it is supposed to work.
A bit of background before I start.
I’m in my mid 40’s with 2 grown up lads, both of them have done apprenticeships – none in decorating I hasten to add – and a 15 year-old daughter.
Like a lot of people, school wasn’t really for me. These were the days before every man and their dog went to university, I think my school held a party when someone once got accepted at Wolverhampton Poly! So, as the local industries were on the bones of their bum, the choice was a YTS or the dole. When I left school I started on a YTS scheme, that was in 1985.
Life in training
Now, YTS had their problems and were used and abused by employers, but they gave you a chance to learn a trade and give you a work ethic. They also gave you just enough money for 20 benson, 4 cans of breaker, bottle of MD 20/20 and one night’s rental of Driller Killer from pervy Ron at the local video shop – under the counter of course.
After doing a few months on a Henry Boot general construction YTS, I decided it wasn’t for me and got on a CITB run decorating YTS instead.
The rest is History as they say.
I have also worked in 4 different colleges as a decorating lecturer and an assessor on the road.
What I am trying to say is, hopefully, I have seen the trade from both the trainee and trainer sides.
My experience with apprentices to date
I also run my own small decorating company, and over the years, have taken on apprentices. 5 in total (4 lads and 1 girl) plus others on work experience. They have all been enrolled at college whilst with me.
This has had varying degrees of success:
1 was useless and lasted about 4 months.
1 decided it wasn’t for her and left to be a swimming instructor after a year – no hard feelings.
1 was with me for about 10 months and though a nice lad I thought would never be a decorator in a million years. It gives me great pleasure to hear that this once lanky streak of piss 16 year-old is now a qualified decorator in Australia – I couldn’t be more happy.
1 was really good and stopped with us for about 2 years before his head was turned by the opportunity to earn more money on new builds. He is now back on domestic decorating, since the housing bubble burst.
Dan is currently with me and has been, for the last 18 months +.
My experience with apprentices going forward
Business is good, and I am now in the market for another apprentice to work alongside Dan, and this is really what this post is all about.
When I was on my YTS, there were 3 groups of lads in the 1st year with about 18 in each group.
ALL OF US WERE PLACED WITH COMPANIES, ie about 55 of us in total. Plus you had your 2nd and 3rd year students, also in work.
When I took Dan on 18 months ago, I put the word out at his college, where they are studying towards level 1,2 & 3 diplomas in P&D, that I was interested in offering someone an apprenticeship, and any one interested, should come for an interview.
2 people turned up.
This time the same offer / request went out.
NO ONE TURNED UP. NO ONE WAS EVEN INTERESTED. This was out of around 40 students
The college still has groups of students studying towards level 1 and 2 diploma qualifications full time (they spend 2-3 days at college) but it seems like none of them want to work???!! It looks like they would rather go to college working towards an unrecognised and worthless qualification than work?
Bit harsh, you think?
How many employers have heard of diplomas? Most struggle to know what NVQ’S are, even though they have been around for over 20 years.
What do most employers want? Experience and a willingness to work, in my opinion as an employer.
Looking for a more experienced student
I know, I will try a level 3 student, thinks me. Bit older, wiser, more willing to work?
I am sent the best student in the class. Great, thinks me.
Late turning up for his interview, not a good start, but I thought I would give him a chance.
He couldn’t paint a window (“we don’t really do that at college”) and after waxing 2 doors, he asked if he could do something else as “I’m sick of doors“.
He lasted 3 days with me, before I had enough.
When I went to pay him, he said he was expecting more money.
“Why ?” said me.
“Because im fully qualified” says he! This is a lad who had never been to work before, couldn’t paint a window, didn’t want to wax doors, and just had a level 2 diploma to his name!!
So I am back to square one.
I have had another lad in this week on a trial, but I can’t see that working out.
The difference between what “they” say and the reality
WE ARE TOLD KIDS ARE CRYING OUT FOR APPRENTICESHIPS. REALLY?
Not in my experience they aren’t. (Also, my friend is an on site assessor for hairdressing and she says Hairdressing companies are in the same boat – crying out for trainees)
With my college hat and employer hat on, this is what seems to be going on.
The students are happy to go to college full-time, because they are working towards qualifications that colleges are telling them will get them a job!? As an employer, I don’t see that theory working out.
The colleges are happy because more bums on seats equals more income.
The government are happy, as the current system boosts their numbers on qualifications for 16 – 19 year olds. It also keeps the youth unemployment numbers down.
But where does that leave me and every other tradesman or company that wants to train up the next generation?
More importantly, where does that leave the decorating trade?
How to move forward?
As I said at the beginning, I have grown-up kids myself that did not go to university. I know all kids are not wired the same, and not every youngster wants to be a painter and decorator, but where do we go from here? How can we all move forward?
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