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What it takes to succeed as an apprentice

In recent years the media and every person that you talk to seems to be more and more interested in the trades. From suggesting to their own kids that trades are a viable option for post secondary education, interest in becoming a trades person has increased to levels that we didn’t think would ever be achieved in the automotive world.

Now that all of these young and interested generations have come to their parents with questions about becoming a tradesperson, we have to do our part  to ensure these young people have the information they need. If you do a quick search about how to succeed in college and university you will find as much information as one person could ever read. However, search how to succeed in this field and you will find the information lacking.

So, how can you ensure your success? Read below to find out my take on how to ensure you flourish. Remember I was in the same situation at one time and now spend my time ensuring other people attain their goals.

What is an apprenticeship?

I think it is important that we take a few minutes to understand what  this type of on the job training  is, after all the unique work environment is what makes this type of training experience unique. First a candidate needs to locate a job at a repair facility that is willing to train and mentor them.

Once a shop has been found you would be hired to work for generally a probationary period. Once this period is over and the shop and the student are willing to continue their relationship. If both parties agree on this they would then both sign a formal training agreement. After this is completed,  a combination of on the job training with formal college education to ensure that they are trained to the standards of the  program.

Once they complete all the necessary requirements they can then write their Certificate of Qualification and become a journeyperson which allows them to practice their trade and begin to mentor others, continuing the cycle.

What does it take to succeed?

Be Humble

This may seem like simple advice, but this has prevented many from being successful. Let’s just be honest, sweeping floors is not something that anybody wants to do when they show up for work. But, this has been one of the more time honored ways of someone “paying” their dues. When I started my career I knew how to “pilot” a broom just as well as any passenger jet pilot knows their airplanes.

Understand that the mechanic that you are learning under started out doing the same thing and do not be discouraged. Any shop that has an effective learning  program limits the amount of work like this and ensures that you are learning at the same time.  Having a tidy work environment is a  valuable job that needs to be done in the shop to ensure that things run smoothly in the shop for everyone.

The technician that you mentor under will be the person that you learn the most from. Generally working in very close proximity they are tasked with ensuring that you do well. They will be available to answer the questions that you may have when they arise and help when you run into trouble. However there will be others that you can learn from and it is important to treat everyone with the same level of respect.

When a mechanic is taking the time to teach you something,  always have open ears. It may seem monotonous when three different people teach you the same thing, but if you pay close attention you will find differences in their techniques. One thing I have learned over my 20 years in the industry is that everyone has a different idea on how to do things, this can be very helpful.

Always stay humble and always learn.

Always be improving

In Stephen Covey’s famous book “ 7 habits of highly effective people ”, he states to always keep your axe sharp. This is very true when it comes to completing the requirements as well as being an effective mechanic once you are licensed. Especially today with our ever changing technology that seems to be changing everyday.

I have always told people that I have mentored that they should strive to read everyday. This habit should be formed as soon as they start their jobs. Once you start your formal schooling you will have a large amount of notes and textbook information available to you so it makes it a little easier.

It is a good suggestion to ensure that you are studying something everyday. This keeps the material fresh and at the front of your mind when you may encounter something in the field. It is always great when you can connect what you are learning in a book to what you are working on in the shop floor at the same time.

This strategy will also help once you write your certificate of qualification. Search out other information. With today’s technology it has never been easier to search out and learn almost everything there is to know about a specific topic. If you have been working on an engine failure maybe a little research into lubrication will help you learn more about lubrication related engine failures. Then you may find you have gone down the rabbit hole and learned how oil is recycled and an oil filter is created. Trust me I have been down these rabbit holes too many times and have learned many things that I wouldn’t have learned otherwise.

Apply yourself 

This is just as important as always improving. I have seen many great potential technicians over the years that just did not want to apply themselves. They didn’t want to take the extra time to study or learn something new as they did not see the connection between what they are learning in class and what they do in their service bays.

Personally over the years I have paid strict attention to keeping up with new technology. Not only how it works but also how to formulate diagnostic strategies to quickly and effectively diagnose issues when they arrive. I would recommend the others do the same no matter what they do for a living. How about something as simple as reading one new article every week.

Maybe you are trying to learn how to use a test light correctly. Search for an article or video that will help you learn how to use the tool effectively. Once you have researched it, apply what you have learned to use the tool correctly.

This is an easily attainable goal, seek out where you might find new information that you have not learned yet. Not only will this give you the opportunity to learn something new but will also provide you with the chance of learning the location of excellent resources. This is helpful in the future as these resources are great information when trying to diagnose a hard to find problem.

These are only a few strategies that can help anyone succeed in today’s work environment. People need to see the advantages of completing an apprenticeship today. I compare it to an internship with a tech company. They will diagnose and repair computer problems, sometimes by evening reprogramming a module.

The best part of this situation however is the fact that we receive a paid internship!

John Morris is a technician with over 20 years of experience. His time these days is spent between educating tomorrow’s technicians and as a technical editor for www.autoknowit.com

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