How to coach and mentor an apprentice 8

Coaching and mentoring a young mind can be an easy job if you have the patience and skill. Many employers hire interns, and then leave them with the appropriate department for their chosen field, never to spend time with them for the entire duration of their internship. That is how it works, but if you want to take an apprentice under your wing to teach them the tips and tricks of the trade, they will be forever thankful for you taking the time out your day to help them. Make them feel at ease and part of the team to get the best out of them and to keep up the good reputation of your program.

Share your expectations with them

All interns, whether they show a massive amount or confidence or not, will feel unsure about what they need to do at first. Provide them with a clear and concise list of what you expect of them, also providing them with company policies and rules. They will then feel better structured in how and where they fit in the company.

Introduce your intern

Introduce your intern to anyone that they might interact with on a daily basis. So if they have any questions they will know who to ask. As a mentor you are responsible for their well-being and you want to make them feel welcome as best as you can. A comfortable intern is a confident intern, and they will be grateful for the help fitting in. Coaching and mentoring your intern is great way for them to step up to the plate. They should be comfortable enough to ask questions and to also raise a hand when they need help. Working with people who have been in the trade for a while will feel a bit intimidating to them.

The weapon of communication

If your intern has any concerns they should feel free to come speak to you, as their mentor. Establish that both of you should always make time for each other, and should be approachable and available. Give your intern a copy of your schedule so that they don’t have to question whether or not they can make contact. Also, make sure they have an alternative person to talk to if their question is urgent.

Give them work to do

They will still have the grading system instilled in them by the education system. Give them a chance to showcase their work ethic by handing them small assignments to do outside office. Whether it be writing a blog about the field that they are in or coming up with new ideas. You may just be surprised and learn a thing or two from them. Success on smaller aspects of work will give them the confidence to pour their all into the bigger projects that you can give to them.




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8 thoughts on “How to coach and mentor an apprentice

  • Cas Olivier

    Marie, I was also never trained on thinking skills, I only discovered them when writing The DNA of Great Teachers. This is a new post modern trend. Google thinking skills and you will be surprized what pops up

    Although thinking skills are not thinking processes, one can also be aware of them unconsciously.

    To be able to use them optimally, best is to consciously know them as they dovetail with one’s personality and talents. This also puts one in a position to determine how other people think. This again helps a lot to put yourself in another person’s shoes – people skills.

    My concern is that people who are not trained in Thinking Skills are not able to name and nominate a skill for a specific thinking task as per the problem.

    Sylvia, this also deals with your question. Chances are less than zero for a person discovering his/her preferred thinking skills bouquet, being able to name and nominate them as required.

    Let me give you another analogy by asking a question. What is the chances that a trainer who were never trained in Bloom’s taxonomy, after a number of year, coin such a classification?

  • Sylvia F. Hammond

    Thank you Cas and Marie,  Yes I agree we should be pursuing this important discussion.

    I also agree with Marie on the assessor training – that is exactly what I received and combined with the experience of trying to interact (unsuccessfully) with the ETDP SETA convinced me that my life was too short to pursue the area further.

     Cas, yes I agree on the people management. You point raises some questions on coaching and mentoring for me. How many managers do receive coaching and mentoring? Should they attend formal thinking skills programmes – or are these less formally obtained via coaching and mentoring? 

    Chantel’s posting was advising managers how to manage juniors. I wonder how many managers have ever received any coaching or mentoring themselves? I also wonder whether there are different requirements based on levels, or distinctly different areas such as artisan trade apprentices – or graduate interns?

  • Marie Smith

    Interesting debate.

    I am not a coach for (trade) apprentices and I am not a competent constructivist in developing learning materials so I am hesitant to throw in my pennyworth, at the risk of exposing myself.

    Cas, I know that I for one was never taught thinking skills. I think (or, let me rather say, my opinion is that) if one is not first consciously and then unconsciously aware of the thinking processes you follow in performing your tasks/doing what you are paid for, passing on thinking skills as coach or mentor is not an easy task. But effective coaching and mentoring does require passing on job and thinking skills, else the coaching and mentoring is not achieving its purpose of developing the skills of the apprentice/coachee/protege.

    My personal experience does not relate directly to apprentices but I have coached a large number of people and I believe thinking skills are relevant to every job/career – even if it is on the most basic level of identifying and correcting a problem (wiring or welding not meeting safety and quality standards; cause of customer dissatisfaction and finding a solution acceptable to customer and company; petrol attendant assessing the risk and having to clean up a spill on the forecourt, etc.; staff member or safety officer identifying a safety hazard and identifying which procedure to follow; coaching a bread baker in a small bakery to identify what went wrong if a batch of bread is a failure).

    To be honest, in the training I received as assessor, I was not even taught how to conduct assessments, never mind how to be a critical thinker when assessing and use that information in assessment reviews. The moderator programme I attended was designed to include every possible little detail that could ever be missing in terms of the administrative process (checking presence of signatures, dates, evidence not submitted), etc. What was missing in both programmes was to apply critical thinking while assessing so that the purpose and objectives of assessment and moderation can be achieved – giving feedback that contributes towards improvement of the quality assurance process. I am of the humble opinion that the same applies to apprenticeships and training for any other job – resulting in inadequate skills to perform a particular job; inability to assess a situation before deciding the correct action to take; and lack of thinking skills to at least evaluate one’s work before, for example, signing off a welding job. That is one of the major causes of work that does not meet standards/expectations, causing product quality problems (rail road maintenance welding performed incorrectly causing train derailments and accidents); customer dissatisfaction; millions spent on importing equipment, machinery and means of transport that do not meet South African circumstances.

    A agree with Sylvia in terms of many situations in the corporate world where too much questioning is not rewarded. I recall a situation some years ago when I trained managers of a well-known car rental company. It was shocking to see and hear that branch managers were not allowed in their corporate culture to point out areas for improvement and make suggestions. I had a very frustrated group of people. But I still believe that one should – in any job or career – think and contribute to improvements. I know it is not always appreciated, but that to me does not mean we do not need to help people develop their thinking skills when we coach and mentor them. That requires, as Sylvia indicates, that managers need to understand what people in the organisation do and to speak their language – coaching and mentoring (formal or informal) are performed by managers.

  • Cas Olivier

    Sylvia, I think there is a blend, however, it cant be procedures and instructions alone. if it was, the industry would have replaced them with pre-programmed computers.

    Mangers manage people, meaning they are in the field of relationships for which pre-programmed procedures do not exist. This is where the need for thinking skills exists.

    Just imagine we can increase the thinking skills of each politician and each government employee by 100 times, meaning we furnish them with a thinking a bouquet of 100 thinking skills, or even only 10 of which they are currently unaware of …….

  • Sylvia F. Hammond

    Thanks Cas – I do think that’s a very interesting question.  In reply I would ask to what extent are managers required to apply thinking skills – as compared to following procedures and instructions? I suppose it depends upon the industry and the company. But my experience tells me that thinking too much and questioning is not rewarded – certainly not in corporate life.  

  • Cas Olivier

    Hi Sylvia,

    Ok, let’s nullify the Global Competitiveness Report.

    Then take the senior management skills as a benchmark and engineer it backwards to school-leavers which is the pool from which they come.

    This still leaves us with an even worse situation.

    Thus my question still stands, who enable managers to become aware of their inborn thinking skills?

  • Sylvia F. Hammond

    Hi Cas, 

    May I throw my pennyworth in here please.  First on the Global Competitive Report – my understanding of their methodology is to ask a half dozen or so executives for their opinion.  Well in my opinion after 30 years of corporate national and multi-national life, I would be hard-pressed to find an executive who even knew anything at all about the recruitment of young people in their or anyone else’s company. Paul Benjamin wrote an excellent article criticising the methodology.

    Secondly, for some time I have been developing the opinion that the main skills shortage we have is management. So I’m not totally persuaded to this point of view that youth are the only ones lacking.  How many senior managers have made even the slightest effort to speak the language of the people they employ? 

  • Cas Olivier

    According to the latest Global Competitive Report 98% of school-leavers are inadequately prepared for work. These ‘products’ of the school system then embark on apprenticeships. Enrolment per se does not put them in a better frame of mind. They are still inadequately prepared for work.

    Subsequent to this, apprenticeship training is also based on lecturing and demonstrations and limited constructivist teaching. Meaning limited self discovery, creation of knowledge and problem-solving. This means they lack thinking skills of which there is a plethora. Again inadequately prepared for work.

    Therefor internships where they have to learn how to fit into the system (soft skills) how to be productive and innovative, etc.

    To what extend are mentors and coaches equipped with the competencies to enable apprentices to become aware of their inborn thinking skills and how to employ them as part of their internship?