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Apprenticeship, on-the-job training


#1

Angela’s thread on Trade Schools has me thinking about the
on-the-job alternative.

My one true apprentice of the past four years has just finished up.
At 25 years old, I think she is better prepared to have a successful
business on her own than I was at her age. I am also starting to
train my 14 year old son and 16 year old nephew. These boys will be
working for wages, about 8 to 12 hours each every week.

I have had friends that called any employee an “apprentice”. I have
a little problem with the idea of a 40 year old apprentice. When I
had 40 year old employees at the bench, I was also 40. The dynamic
was very different. The dynamic is so much better when you have the
authority of adult over that of youth. Traditionally apprentices
were kids. For me, this works so much better.

This is not to say that an adult should not seek on-the-job
training. When I was out of school I worked for a year for another
craftsman and refused to be called an apprentice. I had just earned
my masters degree and felt like “apprentice” would be like going
back to high school. I wish I had worked in several different shops
before I went on my own.

What other real life experience does anyone have with learning or
teaching this way? I really believe we would all be better off if
apprenticship was taken more seriously as a career start.

Stephen Walker


#2

Good day, Stephen.

You raise some interesting points for me as I think about what my
next steps should be in terms of training and education.

I have had friends that called any employee an "apprentice". I
have a little problem with the idea of a 40 year old apprentice.
When I had 40 year old employees at the bench, I was also 40. The
dynamic was very different. The dynamic is so much better when you
have the authority of adult over that of youth. Traditionally
apprentices were kids. For me, this works so much better. This is
not to say that an adult should not seek on-the-job training. When
I was out of school I worked for a year for another craftsman and
refused to be called an apprentice. I had just earned my masters
degree and felt like "apprentice" would be like going back to high
school. I wish I had worked in several different shops before I
went on my own. 

I think that the student’s perspective is everything, as you’ve
stated. If the 40 year old (41 in my case) does not call themself an
apprentice, then by no means will there be a good working
relationship if the master is looking for an apprentice! In the case
where you had just finished 6 years of training, it probably didn’t
make sense to enter a formal apprenticeship with a master - working
for a year each with a number of different respected masters has a
different name, doesn’t it? Journeyman comes to mind, and sure seems
to fit but I’m not sure that is the exact correct usage!

I don’t think age really has anything to do with it, personally… I
think it’s about relative skill and training levels…

I began serious martial arts training at the age of 34. My teacher
is 6 years younger than me… I certainly have no problem calling him
"sensei" - “one who has gone before you” - and although these days I
hold a rank that allows me to do some teaching as well, the
master/student relationship will continue with him as long as he
continues to develop as well. I’ll pretty much always be kohei to my
sempai, to use more Japanese terms that don’t carry the same measure
of “inferior/superior” connotation that many English terms seem to.

Good food for thought and I appreciate the post right now!

cheers,
Kevin


#3
different respected masters has a different name, doesn't it?
Journeyman comes to mind, and sure 

In America, someone who has completed their apprenticeship is a
Journeyman. In Europe, the same thing is called a Master. That’s why
one needs to certain of where the title came from. Me, I’m a
goldsmith…

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#4

Apprenticeship and “on the job training” in our trade has been
shrinking for many reasons… mainly because those who have the
skills
and knowledge worth transferring - are hobbled by the laws,
regulations, expenses, and blizzards of paperwork.

In my case, the time involved for filling out the forms for social
security, unemployment, workers comp, and withholding income taxes is
only one barrier. The government agencies allow you to deduct the
bill for the accountant, but not if you do it yourself. You still
have to pay the accountant. (Another reason why I choose not to do
direct retail/collect sales tax - I simply refuse to be an unpaid
employee of the state slavery was abolished some years ago - let the
galleries and retail stores do it:):slight_smile: There is simply too much
paperwork involved.

I will lose money training someone while paying him or her wages. It
takes at least a year for a trainee to become skilled enough to break
even on wages. My personal work is an odd combination of specialties
within the trade and this may not be true for others?

Swapping training straight across for labor is frowned upon by those
same government agencies - because they don’t get a piece of the pie.
Plus, now you don’t have the same protection for yourself or the
apprentice that you have if you do the paperwork and pay the
government and insurance. And then there are always people who look
at this and say that you are “using the apprentice” when you don’t
pay them…

If you are not paying wages, you can’t get the insurance. If there
is an accident and someone loses a finger or worse - it will come out
of your pocket. Can’t afford that either.

Instead, I teach - for money. It is a straightforward transaction.
You get so much of my time and skills for so many intensive days at
whatever price.

The disadvantages to this system would make this a very long post.
Here’s a few:

Too many people have adopted the “McDonalds mentality”. They want it
all right now! They want to be able to do it as well as that piece
that they saw at a show, on an Internet site or in a magazine. And
they want to be able to do it in a week or even less.

Hand engraving is a perfect example. I have students who go out
before a workshop and buy thousands of dollars worth of tools,
thinking that that and a couple days intensive instruction will make
them an engraver. They don’t want to learn to prepare the meal they
want to eat it NOW!

3 and 5 day workshops can NEVER really cover all there is to know
about a specific technique. If anyone tells prospective students
otherwise, they are lying to them. You’ll get the basics and then YOU
have to develop th= em on your own. Usually without supervision,
advice, or further guidance.

Cramming huge quantities of and trying to master the
hand skills in these short time frames leads to mental and physical
overload. You forget. You get tired. I try to remedy this with
copious printed notes of the workshop content - and an
informal/relaxed classroom, but it’s not always enough.

There is relatively little time to really practice a technique. Some
techniques require a few hundred hours to become competent.

Students learn at different rates. Forcing them or limiting them is
not an ideal situation.

We have come to utilize this method of teaching because it is
expedient" not because it is the best way. People have jobs and
families, travel, food, and lodging expenses, limited budgets,
limited
time, and other obligations.

Lastly, finding the kind of apprentice that I want to invest my time
in is very very hard to do. I need someone who will be totally
immersed in the work. Someone slightly crazy, bent, like I am.
Someone who sits down to eat reading up on the subject. Someone who
grabs a trade magazine to read in the toilet. Goes to bed reading
more or watching instructional videos.

Someone who is constantly and never-endingly IN the work. 24/7
Practicing between jobs. Working 'till the wee hours when the work
calls for it or the skill needs to be acquired. Someone without much
of a life, like me…

If there are any SERIOUS contenders for such a position, just let me
know. Especially if you have some real solutions for some of the
problems listed above! I can promise you that you’ll have long hours,
little or no pay, and will invest at least a year more likely two -
of
your time. Willing to= do that? Willing to suffer a little? In
return,
you will know how to perform competently EVERY skill used at the
average jewelry bench - 200% better than I can teach you in any
single
intensive technique workshop. You will graduate to a" real" job,
knowing enough and being skilled enough to guarantee your future. You
may even be the one who takes over my studios a few years down the
road.

Brian P. Marshall
Stockton Jewelry Arts School
Stockton, CA USA
209-477-0550
www.jewelryartschool.com


#5

I should have made a better distinction between apprenticeship and
just plain hired labor, as on-the-job training goes. When I had
employees the same age as myself, early 40s, they wanted a job. They
had no previous idea that they wanted to be craftsmen. They
generally liked the work, but it is not the same as someone who
wants to learn the craft and then seeks employment to do that. I am
not trading work for lessons. I am teaching them what they need to
do that I need done and gradually adding skills. I have only had one
real apprentice. I did help her with her own projects on her own
time, but she started out polishing castings and soldering parts
together as they were needed to meet my production. In the end she
was carving wax, doing lost wax casting on her own, setting stones
and making mokume-married metals pieces, all in 4 years and in a way
that was usually profitable.

My teen age boys that are working now are molding and treeing wax
and investing it and polishing cast pieces. This week my 14 year old
son cast more pieces than I did in 5 years of art school. Granted,
he did it with me standing right there telling hime when to let it
spin, but after a few more sessions I will trust him on his own.
This is sweat shop work, but they are learning very quickly.

I had an intern 10 years ago, from an art school. I asked about her
soldering skills, specifically, had she ever soldered pin clasps. Oh
yes! She did that in class. She even did an extra one for practice.
Two hours later she had put pins on about 30 pieces. One or two
pieces might be just enough to convince you that it is very
difficult. Do a whole lot and it becomes easy. It isn’t school. She
soldered hundreds of findings during the few months she was with me.

When I was just out of school, working for another craftsman, I
learned about keeping my nose to the grindstone, keeping production
on schedule and a lot about business. I don’t think I really learned
much new as far as hands-on skills at that job, but the experience
of working as a grunt in a successful business really taught me a
lot that I needed to know. Not every craftsman has the kind of work
that makes sense to take on an apprentice. But if I were a young man
looking to learn this craft, I would try to find one. And then maybe
find another one after a year or two.

I have great sympathy with Brian’s objections to the government
burdens on employers. Without some hired help, my business would be
held back by me spending a lot of time doing things that someone
with a lot less skill would be glad to do for reasonable wages. It
also gets kind of lonesome working by yourself. I know. I did it for
years.

Steve Walker