School to Apprenticeship... Your Ignition to Transition
Recess is a genius idea that is sadly absent in most adults’ lives once they finish school. However, on the positive side to leaving school and losing recess is that you’re also no longer required to sit in the science lab for Wednesday’s third period!
Once the school bell tolls for the last time, you’ll probably need to get used to a few new things in the transition to higher education and your ultimate career.
If you have chosen an apprenticeship, here’s a few things to expect that may be different from your regulated school life (you still get recess, by the way… they’re now called coffee breaks).
1. You are responsible for your own learning
Attendance is no longer compulsory but nobody will check the boxes for you or hold your hand through to qualification. Ask any apprentice a few years out of school and they will tell you that becoming responsible for your own learning is the biggest difference. People will usually be happy to teach you, but beyond that, it's entirely up to you to listen and take the opportunity to upskill faster.
Dan (30), who went to TAFE to learn carpentry, admits that while it was definitely tougher than school, “learning something new everyday in a career you love makes it more than worthwhile. Plus getting a steady paycheck out of school is great!”
2. Being mentored by someone invested in your future
Everyone needs a mentor to teach them the ropes in life. As an apprentice you usually get assigned one. Your employer is highly invested in teaching you skills that will benefit the business. The quicker you learn the profession and the more skilled you become, the better for everyone involved.
Sam, a 27-year old qualified locksmith, recalls TAFE being “very different to school.” He particularly liked the mentor aspect of learning a trade, saying “I was definitely a lot more interested [in learning my trade] than in school and I matured a lot because I was working around older people.”
Sam recommends the lifestyle, saying “it’s definitely for someone who's not interested in going all the way to Year 12. It keeps you busy, interested and you get a paycheck at the end of the week, which is great.”
3. Meeting people from different trades and learning from them
A job site requires various trades to complete the project. A construction site will have plumbers, electricians, locksmiths, landscapers, and others, all requiring different skill sets from which to learn. Being around a wide variety of skilled labourers will help you become a more well-rounded worker and on occasion can pique your interest elsewhere.
Cameron, a 25-year old sparkie (electrician) has some pearls of wisdom for working with others: “Don't bite the hand that feeds you!” He adds, when you’re working with others, particularly those who are mentoring you, “listen to what they say and take notes because they’re there to help you out.”
The most important piece of advice is perseverance. No matter how different it is to what you're used to at school, Cameron says “if you can last 3 months, you can last the 4 years [of an apprenticeship].”
4. Learning to manage clients
Every business has to interact with clients. Sometimes it’s pushing back on time frames, at other times it’s knowing how much of a discount is possible. It’s imperative if you one day wish to start your own business that you not only understand the technical skills required to do the job itself, but also understand how much to quote and factors that affect the smooth running of an individual job.
Cameron confirms this, saying “school is where you go to learn but you don’t necessarily know what you will need the skills for. When you get an apprenticeship you find out how it helps you in the long run solving problems.”
5. Going to TAFE to test your competency
TAFE is primarily centred around one inescapable reality: ‘competent’ or ‘not yet competent’. In other words, you can either demonstrate the skill and repeat it when asked... or you can’t. It’s very hard to fake the skills of cooking a piece of fish, picking a lock or restoring power. You can either do it or you can’t.
You could be thinking, like Fred (40, mechanic) bring it on! He says “I wasn't very good at school, so when I went to TAFE as part of my apprenticeship I loved it... the most surprisingly thing was how much I enjoyed it and also how much everybody else enjoyed their around me.”
6. Learning the tools of the trade
Part of learning the skills is also learning what tools are of most use in your trade, how to use them and maintain them correctly. You will gain valuable tips on the difference in quality and which tools are worth the investment due to the time they will save you in the long run. Some tools are provided by your employer, whereas others you’ll need to buy yourself (it’s worth checking with your future employer which ones will provide the tools and which don’t).
Many skilled trades people will tell you that their apprenticeship was the basis of their career. In this environment they learned from their mistakes and grew to understand their industry.
The best part is, employers don't expect a school leaver to be armed with lots of knowledge. They expect to be able to teach their apprentice to become a valuable asset to their business, and eventually to themselves and the industry. What they do expect is a good attitude towards learning new skills and helping their business where possible.