The right stuff

What does it take to get the most out of your apprenticeship?

We interviewed Auckland-based BCITO Training Advisor Brian Newth to find out what you can do to get the most out of your apprenticeship and have a successful future.

Brian, who has been with BCITO for four years, was previously a builder and an assessor for the LBP scheme.  He says, “The best part of my job is watching apprentices progress from beginners to qualified professionals, watching their confidence skills and knowledge develop, not to mention the places this takes me, the projects I get to see and the people I get to work with.”

What are your best tips for new apprentices?

"Give some thought to why you want to be an apprentice.  Is the trade you’ve chosen something you will enjoy doing? Does it hold your interest and do you feel that you’d like it to be a long term career?  If you can answer ‘yes’ to all three questions, then you’re off to a great start.

"Align your reading to what you are involved in on the work site, take the resource material into work and ask questions of your workmates; that way you all may learn something. 

"Be willing to read and learn ways of retaining what you read, write it down if you need to.

"Turn up every day on time, take pride in any task that you’re given to do, do it to the best of your ability at all times, look after the tools loaned to you as though they are your own, allocate some weekly money to building your own tool kit.

"Read, retain and apply, and have a plan about how to work through your apprenticeship.  Ask qualified tradespeople what they did.

"Commit for the long term. It’s not a sprint, more like a marathon and could turn into an ultra-marathon, you won’t complete if you go in fits and spurts so make steady progress, build into it at the start and maintain consistent progress through to the end. 

"Remember the goal."

What behaviour and attitude does an employer expect from an apprentice?

"Be respectful of your Employer and other employees, commit to your employment which starts with showing up on time every day.

"Your attitude should reflect that you are willing to do the tasks that you’re asked to do, ask the reason why you’re digging that hole, pulling nails out of discarded timber or stripping boxing or anything that seems mundane."

What’s the right approach for an apprentice to have towards their learning?

"A willingness to learn, and understanding how to apply that learning is required.  This turns retained knowledge into the practical tasks that you’re being asked to do. If you know the ‘why’ about a task, it will become second nature.

"Don’t be in a hurry to complete the training, anything that’s worthwhile doing takes time to learn; it requires significant repetition which forms good habits."

What are some things apprentices can do to make sure what they learn on the job is firmly cemented into their knowledge bank?

"The first key is to establish how you learn best. One option you can do is take photos of the task done correctly, store them securely, align the images to any resource material on that topic and write down process and technical requirements.

"Collect and store Technical Data Specifications on products, get into a habit of reading them and understanding the detail. These can be collected from Timber Merchants/Suppliers and make sure to look for the most recent release and update as they are renewed.

"Familiarise yourself with products from timber to mechanical fastenings to fixtures and fittings and read the plans requesting a copy to take home.  A core skill is plan reading; familiarisation makes plans easier to understand. Use visualisation to get a clear picture of what you are building."

What should apprentices do if they come across a problem they can’t solve?

"Speak up, talk to your employer, be open and honest about the issue. With support, any problem can be resolved."

What does it take to be good at your job as an apprentice?

"Be keen, show initiative, keep everyone informed about your progress.  Stay focused on the task at hand, ask questions and compile a portfolio of what you’re involved in. Be open to learning new things and be willing to repeat tasks that you’re not so keen on doing."

How do BCITO Training Advisors help apprentices to be successful?

"By guiding you through the training, helping you establish how to learn, providing support throughout your training and helping you make those incremental improvements."

Why is communication so important in the employer/apprentice/Training Advisor relationship?

"Open and clear communication shows a willingness to learn and be engaged in the process, provides assurance that you’re always available and keen to progress.

"Keeping the lines of communication open helps with making those incremental changes, shows commitment and gives you the reassurance that you have support.

"Don’t let any disabilities hold you back, with communication they can be worked through."

What other opportunities are out there for apprentices as they progress through their training?

"Look for any other opportunities, Apprentice of the Year competitions, Industry Associations, Mentoring Schemes to assist another trainee through the qualification and once you have confidence in yourself, become licensed through the LBP Scheme. 

"While in training and after training look at career progression, Leading Hand, Foreman, Site Supervisor, Project Manager, short courses on how to run a small business if that’s your desired path."

After getting qualified, what should apprentices strive for next?

"Remain open to learning, if you're keen to continue with academic qualifications, consider the next step, perhaps a Supervisor qualification, after that maybe a small business course if you have ambitions to run a business.

"Your qualification will hold you in good stead to work overseas; you should be able to turn your hand to any other environment as you will have a broad base of skills and knowledge."

Do you have any other advice for apprentices?

Brian Newth and Mark Siviter from Licensed Renovations

"Work hard even when no one is watching."

Brian adds, “I’m probably typical of most builders in that I’m a physical and practical person, I can read, interpret and visualise. 

“I like to challenge myself physically, and when I’m training for a running event, I follow the same patterns. I respect the event and the end goal that I’m trying to achieve no matter the distance, I never rush the process. 

“In training, I commit to the plan no matter the conditions, I build on the base that I’ve previously built and make solid and consistent incremental progress working towards the end goal. Be willing to change, and if unforeseen circumstances appear don’t let it hold you back from that end goal, everything can be worked around with support from others. If it’s not working too well alter the plan but keep the end goal.

“Here’s a great quote from Muhammad Ali:  The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights."

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