5 tips to dealing with Apprentices
18 April 2018
5 tips to dealing with Apprentices


The rookie apprentice. You love them and hate them all at the same time.

They show up on site with not much experience and you see them as just something else to manage.

But remember, you were there once.

We were all rookies at some stage and we all had someone to guide us through.

Now it’s your turn to be a mentor.

And here’s how to be a good one...


Set expectations

How can you expect a fresh young apprentice to do what you expect if you don’t give them any expectations? It’s generally known that humans like to follow rules. And when we know these rules, we tend to stay within them.

So set some ground rules...

...Be at work 10 minutes before you’re due to start

...Don’t talk to the client about time frames unless instructed

...If you’re not sure, ask

...Treat all equipment with respect

...What I say, goes!

Tell them how you like things done.

Failing to set rules and expectations in the beginning can lead to miscommunication, and potential longer time in training.


Keep them in the loop

Although it might seem like a pain in the bum in the beginning, talking through the daily plan (or weekly) will help. You’ll be helping the apprentice plan ahead and manage their own time.

They should know the workload, deadlines, time estimates, where they need to be, what time etc etc. Think of it as short term pain for long-term gain. By keeping them in the loop you’ll be gaining your apprentice’s respect, as well as teaching them valuable skills. Who knows, they might even remind you to do things when you need to.

Ideal Management styles

Every apprentice will be different. They’ll have different personality types and learning needs. This means that sometimes you’ll need to adjust your management style too.

For example:

You may have an apprentice who likes a lot of feedback on their work.  “Is this ok?” “Am I doing this right?” “Where can I find the hacksaw?”

These questions can take up a lot of time and interrupt your flow so you’ll need to come up with a plan to suit you both. You could arrange that they come to you at four set times with their questions. That way, you can plan for them and they won’t feel so bad interrupting you.

On the other hand, be careful of micro-managing where you want to control every single part of the job. It can be patronising and have deconstructive outcomes.

So instead of checking on their every move let them make their own decisions. Sometimes, it can be great learning when you let them fail.

Give constructive feedback

Young apprentices will make some bad calls. They will do things that you will have to re-do. The art of taking the learning from this it is to give constructive feedback.

So instead of saying “that door looks rubbish - it’s not hung straight, it sags, and doesn’t close properly.”

Try a feedback sandwich. Start and end with a positive: "Good work hanging the door. But do you think it's on right? Try taking it off and screwing on a different place to get a tighter hold.”

Constructive feedback is usually in the form that doesn’t offend. It paints the feedback in a light that someone can draw learnings from. It’s a win-win - you don’t rub the apprentice up the wrong way and you get a better outcome next time.

Get social

Letting your hair down and showing your more relaxed side every now and then will go a long way. This way, they see you working hard, but they can also see you know how to have a laugh. They’ll start to look up to you and your working relationship will be a strong, productive one.


Being a good mentor isn't always easy but it can be rewarding.

And it's always fun to send the apprentice out for supplies. Get them to pick you up some elbow grease, a short circuit and a left-handed screwdriver.