Apprenticeships Part Three: 5 ways educators can better serve students


The systems we have in place for students and apprentices to begin their journey in the trades need work—though I don't think we have to recreate them from scratch. In my experience, we have a lot of the pieces already in place. We also only have to look to Europe in particular Germany for very good working programs.

One of the first things we need to do is to create a paradigm shift. Specifically, in the way we view trades as an educational system, as parents, and as a society. We tell a story about youth entering trades that often are negative or inauthentic, full of assumptions and nieve. We say trades are a great option—but from a labour shortage and labour retention point of view, we are failing badly. 

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Here are five ways we as educators can collectively co-operate to create an apprenticeship program that meets the needs of students, apprentices, employers and society:

  1. We need to start viewing skilled tradespeople with designation to be on par with someone with an undergraduate degree. I say this because the amount of time, effort, skill development and experience required to complete an apprenticeship is—in my mind at the very least—on par.
  2. We need to have more collaboration between departments in high school's so that everyone is informed on opportunities for students. We need to ensure that guidance is clear on the purpose of trades programs, what possibilities are available to students, and what is required for trades training. I am told that it is uncommon for teachers in trades programs to associate, communicate or cooperate with teachers in the academic departments. This is unfortunate and lowers the possibilities for all involved.
  3. High school co-operative education needs to recruit, train and retain businesses that are coached and prepared to host a student and deliver an experience that is realistic to the trade. In my opinion, it’s too often that students are judged and found lacking by business owners and educators that are not properly prepared to take on a student. This is of course damaging to all because our expectations do not match the age, stage and experience of the co-op student. This turns out to be a bad experience for everyone and the goals and objectives are missed.
  4. Employers need to begin seeing co-op students and apprentices as an opportunity. I think having some awareness and training around expectations for both employers and apprentices will go a long way in developing more desirable outcomes and long-term relationships. 
  5. Hiring qualified journeypersons that are committed to enrolling students into trades is critical. Successful journeypersons that are teaching have an obligation to lay a successful career path for students. Insight and wisdom that are founded in experience are essential in trades enrollment, retention and mastery.

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What I have expressed in the above five points is straightforward. It will take everyone involved to stand in what is possible for students and to think and act in ways that are uncomfortable and are outside of the norm. We do have a critical labour shortage in trades, this will not change unless we start to lead it to create the outcomes that we need.

What do you think needs to be changed in order to better serve our apprentices and students? Connect with us on Facebook to continue these important conversations.