Apprenticeships Part One: Creating a proper work and learning environment


Apprenticeships in Ontario, in my experience of training in them for the better part of thirty years, is that we are unconsciously placing our bright young stars into often unstable, precarious small businesses. 

I recently saw a social media post from a small business owner that was describing their day-to-day experience—and it wasn't good. This person's rant was about how they have to do it all, how they are taken advantage of, disrespected, overworked, exhausted, underprepared etc, etc. 

salon toolsPhoto by cottonbro from Pexels

I can totally relate to this experience as I have lived it. It caused health problems due to my stress, anxiety and the like. I am pointing this out because this is no place for an apprentice or anyone else for that matter.

This is all too typical and as a result, we end up running our business in reaction mode—survival mode. This is not a learning environment. Can you imagine putting in an inexperienced twenty-year-old in that environment? What is the impact?

I can tell you that apprentices experience demands to take the pressure off the salon owner or fellow stylists and take on professional tasks they aren't ready for. They can be taken advantage of from a labour standard point of view and in other ways also. This often leads to scapegoating—the fault and blame conversation—which can lead to comments such as:

  • “You aren't cut out for this industry.” 
  • “Well, when I was an apprentice.....” 
  • “What's wrong with this generation?” 
  • “Didn't you learn that in cosmetology school?” 
  • “That's not the right way to do that.” 
  • “Why are you crying? Please come out of the bathroom, your guest is waiting.” 
  • “What do you mean you are afraid of men? It's just a haircut!”

woman picking dyePhoto by cottonbro from Pexels

We have downloaded a very important and essential skill of training people for a specific profession with no support, compensation or training.

What I am intending to do here is not to make anyone wrong, I am just willing to tell it how I see it. Our retention number of apprentices is very low simply because we do not create a conducive environment for success. We need to overhaul the system from Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) in secondary school, all the way to completion as a journeyperson, so we can attract, effectively train and retain people in trades and support the business and owners in this rewarding process.

This will be a blog series, stay tuned as I have some new ideas coming. I would appreciate knowing your thoughts.