A link in the above blog to Stephen Downe’s post on things you really need to learn also provided me with some food for thought. Especially in light of the recent speeches in New Zealand by both the Prime Minister (raising the school leaving age) and the opposition leader (boot camp for young offenders) about what government will be doing with young people who leave school with no school qualifications.
As I build narratives of apprentice stories, about how they found little connect at school, about how an apprenticeship had provided them with purpose in life and about how almost all of them are now passionate about a trade they all pretty much fell into; I find links, agreement and contradictions between the 10 things that Stephen has listed and the things that apprentices have learnt or have had to learn in their first three to four years in the workplace.
So here are some thoughts:-
- Predicting consequences:- when you are at the bottom of the rung in a workplace, you very quickly learn how to predict consequences within your defined place in the hierarchy. Basically, you learn the consequences of your actions / or lack of actions very quickly via the way in which your bakery products turn out and learn to not take that course of action again. If you are slow in this area, you have lost your apprenticeship.
- Reading:- I often see a great improvement in the ability of apprentices to read and write between their first and third block courses. This is because they have had to hone their literacy skills in a meaningful and situated manner. They don’t have to write an essay on a topic they have no clue about but they have to fill in forms and complete work that are important towards completing their apprenticeship.
- Distinguishing between truth and fiction:- very prosaic for most apprentices. It either works or it doesn’t! the evidence is concrete in a work environment that is production focused in producing large quantities of product that have to be consistent and good quality day after day after day.
- Empathy:- I see a developing empathy between young people and their parents and workmates. That everyone works hard, moans little and gets on with the job. Young people realise that their parents are not lying when they say how hard the workday has been when they themselves put in 12 to 16 hour days in a physically and mentally demanding job.
- Creativity:- apprentices really enjoy this aspect of a trade, to be able to put their own stamp on a product (as in finishing it well). Its one of the things that make them excited about their work, the opportunity to have their ideas listened to and to be able to then go ahead and actually produce something that looks good, tastes yummy and sells well with a healthy profit.
- Communicate:- yes, most have to come to grips with this, otherwise, no one else will speak up for them at work. They have to be able to make themselves heard and to succinctly state their case. Otherwise, the boss has other things that are more important to do.
- Learning to learn:- strategies that work in the workplace include working out who to learn best from for specific skills or tasks, when to ask questions, working out what your strengths and weaknesses are so that you can work on your weaknesses. Third year apprentices articulated these skills which I thing was quite a meta-cognitive feat for many of them.
- Stay healthy:- yup. Got to go to bed early enough in order to get up at 3am to go to work. Got to rest up on day offs to be ready for the week’s physical challenge. Got to drink more water in the bakery and eat at regular times. These are kids that would have had no breakfast when they went to school and a lunch of packet chips and a bottle of fizz.
- Value yourself:- I see taking responsibility for themselves as big pluses of an apprenticeship. Third year apprentices are planning ahead to extend their career, travel, to widen their horizons before they settle down and have kids! Barely in their 20s and they are planning ahead for their families.
- Live meaningfully:- comes through in statements like “ I have got a trade now and it’s something I can depend on … where ever I go ….. for the next few years …. For the rest of my life…” the trade also gives purpose to young people who left school with few prospects along with providing them with a vocational identity that they take pride in.
Over the years, I have seen the difference between year 1 and year 3 apprentices when they come to CPIT on block course and its been a real privilege to be able to dig deeper and to try to fathom some of what goes on during those three years.