What skills are you passing on?


There has been much talk in my house of late about the impact that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is potentially going to have on different jobs as our boys are considering their first steps into the working world. This discussion has also encompassed whether it is still worth investing in a degree or should they consider a more practical apprenticeship. In my mind, apprenticeships are about passing on skills and expertise developed over a lifetime of working whereas degrees mostly focus on the attainment of knowledge. Currently, both my boys are part time apprentices in my husband’s mechanical services company learning the basics of the different trades from guys who have honed their skills over the last 40 years. They fit it in around their college studies with no expectation on them to follow in their father’s footsteps.
Having seen my husband successfully train many apprentices over the years, I know that it is not always an easy route. However, many of the challenges faced by apprentices, or anyone entering the workplace for the first time, are not related to how to use a tool, be it a drill or an application on a computer, but more related to the stuff that happens on the periphery. And that is where I come into the picture. Just like my husband, my toolbox is also filled with a vast array of useful knowledge, skills and expertise gathered over my many years of working in Financial Services. So, whilst he has been showing them how to make electrical connections and flare pipe joints, I have been passing on some of my own tools of the trade, focusing on the following three key areas.

Under a watchful eye, they are learning when to speak up and when to keep their views to themselves, when it is appropriate to ask a question, how to speak so someone listens, and how to alter your conversation and tone to suit the audience

1. Communication – yep, communication really is king in my book but for those entering the workplace for the first time, it’s not all about learning how to use ‘open’ or ‘closed’ questions, but more about how to successfully interact with a diverse mix of people. For my boys, they are meeting those facing all sorts of personal challenges, those that appear to see themselves as superior, and those who choose to live a very different lifestyle to the one they have been brought up in. They’ve had a quick lesson in Behavioural Quartiles – learning how it is always better to respond politely when someone chooses to be rude and the trick of speaking quietly when someone chooses to shout so that they have to listen to the response.
We have taught them an assortment of practical word patterns to use, such as how to ask people to move. I know it sounds very trivial but I’m sure there is someone who springs to mind in your office for whom you would rather find a work around than having to ask them to change something about their workspace. Now imagine being 17 years old (again) and having to ask that person to move so you can clean the filter in the air conditioning unit above their desk. Bet you would have loved to have a few word patterns in your back pocket?
And of course, we cannot forget how they are picking up some great conversational skills – especially during the tea breaks. Under a watchful eye, they are learning when to speak up and when to keep their views to themselves, when it is appropriate to ask a question, how to speak so someone listens, and how to alter your conversation and tone to suit the audience.
2. Resilience –I am aware there is a general perception that trades can be a tad direct in their approach but if like me you prefer authenticity over fabrication, then this isn’t a problem. However, the transition from the protection of the classroom environment to the realities of the working one can be a hard one if you are not prepared.
Resilience is about being able to bounce back and isn’t a simple, single dimension of personality but rather a number of distinct elements with some common themes that means we can increase our levels of personal resilience, without having to increase the number of personal challenges thrown at us to overcome.
We are showing them how to acknowledge and face up to differences; to behave appropriately and treat each situation individually. Just because one person from one profession has treated them in a certain way that day, doesn’t mean that everyone in that profession will do the same next time. Helping them to understand that how people behave towards them is a reflection of how they are feeling and often has nothing to do with what or how they have said something.
And as you’d expect from a trainer, I always ask them to think about what lessons can be drawn from their experiences and how they can use it to strengthen their ‘learning muscle’. I want to pick out how they have still made a difference, even when the other person cannot see it – such as by leaving them breathing cleaner air. Not everyone will see the worth of their job that day, but my boys will know their worth in the job they have done.
3. Organisation – by this I mean planning, structuring, arranging, managing and co-ordinating. To the trades, this is something that happens day in day out on nearly every job they perform. They need to make sure the right tools and materials are on site at the right time so the work can proceed as intended. Delays cost money, but so does attempting to store materials on site before they are needed; it is a delicate balancing act.
As an apprentice, you are expected to have the right tools ready for the engineer as they are needed and anticipate their next step so you can fetch the right materials, and have them to hand as they need to be used. Without knowing it, they are learning the fundamentals of project management. They are learning how to be agile and how to pivot when something doesn’t go quite to plan. I am showing them how I use the same thought process when implementing a learning strategy, so they understand what a valuable and transferrable skill they are developing. They are experiencing first-hand the impact of not being organised and having things ready when needed – an experience that I know isn’t an enjoyable one so it is something they prefer not to repeat that often.
Irrespective of the career pathway they choose, we do know that they are picking up some valuable knowledge along with a big dose of life skills whilst they make that decision. Maybe one day, they may actually appreciate it too!


About Author

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As an experienced and professional Consultant and Training Professional, I have had the privilege of working across a wide range of companies and business areas predominately in the Financial Services sector. Wherever I am and whatever job role I am undertaking on behalf of a client, you will always find me influencing and driving others to produce results.

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