Over the Christmas period I was reading Paul sellers blog which is always insightful and well worth reading from time to time. He covered over a series of blogs his views on craftsmanship and apprenticeships which does pose a question, will there over time be a real shortage of problem solving craftsmen when the 50+ year old guys retire.
Now don’t get me wrong there are those who genuinely take their trades seriously and are highly skilled who go up and beyond in their search for knowledge, experience and love to test their skills on those challenging jobs. But there are youngsters out there who have had basic training and this article will hopefully make them think more seriously about their craft and who’s advice they take.
One of my sons is now finishing his apprenticeship as an electrician hopefully he will pass his final tests in the next few days and it also prompted me with this post.
Really good tradesmen are clever, they don’t have problems they have solutions! They are forward thinking, not only with the task at hand but will have organised the bigger picture in there minds taking the correct steps to increase production. They will always work out the easiest way to undertake a project and will be knowledgeable enough to ensure the best practices are used. There is no doubt that the one aspect they all have in common is ‘pride in their work’ and will not be distracted by social media whilst they undertake their work.
Many of those skilled workers will wholeheartedly recognise there are problems with consistency amongst tradesmen who live off the back of those who continue to serve their profession well. It is highly probable over the years they have rectified many a poor job, rectifying other peoples cock ups. It’s important that those getting into a trade is to recognise your weaknesses and work on your consistency, reliability and to know your limitations. It’s far better to ask for assistance from a more experienced hand and get it right than gaining an adverse reputation based on regrettable willingness. Years ago this is where the full apprenticeship and companies investing in their training came in and has been sorely missed over the past 30+ years.
Whilst I understand there has been a march into schemes which supposedly illustrates a tradesman’s competence it rarely demonstrates the gulf in knowledge there can be between different groups. Competence and craftsmanship are polar opposites, one works on basic projects whilst the other may work on prestige types of work which incorporates a wide range of skills. So whether it’s a carpenter, mechanic or builder as examples it’s important to distinguish there are different levels of technical ability.
Having the right attitude helps immensely and loving your trade will show in your standard of workmanship over time especially as you gain more and more experience. Experience helps with decision making and this significantly increases productivity and there will be a window in life where youth and experience will work hand in hand. If I was to give any advice it would be enjoy the ride take full advantage of it when this comes, save the holidays and fast cars for later in life as this will be the period when you will be able to reap the rewards of your career.
Reputation is everything to those who care and this will come in time so be patient but also recognise if the work becomes more complex its a sign you are more trusted to get things right, financially this should also be more rewarding.
In this age of disposable mass produced items and the internet there is a real issue with many customers who cannot recognise those highly skilled individuals to the others in their trade. With the rise of internet review sites commenting on different tradesmen work coming from a person who isn’t skilled (who probably wanted a cheap job in the first place) the waters are further muddled about who is really worth their salt. It’s going to be important for tradesmen to understand how their skills differ from others who only undertake simpler work and showing their skills are far more suitable to complex tasks and why their rates are deservedly higher.
‘When someone passes their driving test they are able to drive a car however this does not make them Lewis Hamilton’.
Apprenticeships of old had a distinct advantage as they had time on there side to develop under strict supervision of professional craftsmen, this route has been seriously eroded over the last 30+ years but it is important those who are new to the trades do not take a leap to far in their early days as this could seriously damage their confidence and willingness to test themselves in the pursuit of excellence.
My advice to youngsters would be ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ tackle jobs what comes naturally and gain as much experience as possible using your own time on things that won’t cause problems, please, please avoid wasting your time on Facebook etc. Your skills will develop along with your tool kit which will eventually will be limited or extensive depending on your willingness to broaden your knowledge base. Naturally you will find you will have favourite tools and alternatives in reserve just in case something happens to your first choice. Some just muddle through with basic gear but there is nothing better than using tools that are perfect for the job.
New tools are always coming onto the market place but turning up for work with like you just walked out of Screwfix with a high percentage of new tools even if they are from the best makers today is a poor move as this screams inexperience. Besides it’s more likely you will get better for value to old hand tools and they are more often than not be of better quality, that’s if you know your makers or can find a used tool dealer like us to trust who will ensure what’s on offer meets the highest standards.
Whenever possible be helpful and meet some of the older guys or whoever has the skills impress you, engage and listen and never be afraid to ask for advice, don’t let you ego get in the way. Any good tradesman will tell you there was always something new to learn as their careers progressed and they only got good at it by being inquisitive.
Aim to become an expert in an area of your profession, choose something you enjoy and use the passion for it learn in-depth knowledge and build from there with additional skills that will enhance and compliment those skills.
My last bit of advice to any youngster embarking on learning a trade would be, if you achieve the above it will turn your job into a passion and not just a chore for money. Get inspired, get involved, test yourself, get off Facebook and live your whole life by fulfilling your true potential, you will in time be surprised of your own capabilities.
I’ve mentioned Facebook a couple of times and my advice on social media would be to dump it! It’s full of pretence and will absorb your time like a sponge and distract your mind from what could be a truly fulfilling, a capable and far more interesting real life, not one where people add in all the good bits only. The other side of that coin could stop you in your tracks and turn you into a master of nothingness, posting pictures of your dinner cooked by someone else. I like so many other tradesmen wouldn’t waste our time teaching someone who’s interests online seem more important, so be warned if you are starting an apprenticeship. Besides social media is designed to occupy those who have far too much time doing nothing, which isn’t an option for someone who has time served skills at their disposal to enjoy!
On a personal note, I’ve always loved using the combination of using my hands and mind and the challenges it brings, it gives me the ability to adapt my life’s work to suit my interests and character. Reaping the rewards takes time but I can definitely say it’s been worth all the hard work. If I had one wish it would be to extend the 24 hr day and number of days a week to do more of the things I have learn’t over the years. One lifetime isn’t enough, but this one i’m blessed with is taking the right route of making it very interesting, never dull or boring as there is so much more to learn and do.