As the idea of apprenticeship gains popularity in the United States, companies are beginning to consider them as a potential way to bridge knowledge gaps in the skilled labor force. For supervisors, the addition of apprentices requires a new approach to team building. Learn about managing apprentices to help your company prepare effectively for future programs.
Apprentice programs are a longstanding tradition in some European companies. In the United States, similar programs are in their infancy; experts suggest that they may be a way to build a skilled labor force in manufacturing and other industries that require skilled workers. The programs vary from company to company, but most involve taking in people ranging in age from high school students to senior citizens and training them in company operations. Along the way, the apprentices learn how to use the latest technology in the industry.
For managers, apprentice programs add a new level of complexity to the workforce. Like interns, the apprentices rank low on the office totem pole but are allowed access to high-level operations for educational purposes. Managing apprentices requires supervisors to strike an appropriate balance between education, labor and exposure to daily company activities.
Apprentices come in to provide labor support and to learn. Managing apprentices effectively requires you to set specific educational objectives. Use an entry-level production job as a guideline. What skills do you want your incoming workers to have? What processes should they understand? Are there any technologies they must be able to use? Develop specific processes and performance indicators for each apprenticeship. When apprentices come out of the program with these skills, they have the potential to be valuable new hires for your company.
In some companies, particularly those that are just starting new apprenticeship programs, integrating participants can be challenging. Managing apprentices is easier and more effective when you assign each person to a mentor. In doing so, you give the apprentices a home base of sorts, someone they can look to for support. Consider creating a rotating schedule to expose your apprentices to multiple areas of the company.
When it comes to managing apprentices, communication is key. Include program participants in a range of company meetings to expose them to standard procedures. Along the way, they learn about professional communication and appropriate behavior. Make time for sessions that are dedicated just to the apprentices. Doing so helps you gain insight into areas where they are struggling and helps you find ways to improve the program.
Managing apprentices is a new challenge for many American professionals. By approaching the process with a plan and specific objectives, you can make the experience more educational and enjoyable for your employees and apprentices.
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