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Mentoring Apprentices in Construction: Importance, Benefits, and Tips

Mentoring Apprentices in Construction

Internships and apprenticeships are huge parts of an employee’s career. While they aren’t necessary for most jobs, these programs guide and mold trainees and aspiring employees entering the industry. For construction, apprenticeships are essential to sharpen skills and broaden knowledge before calling themselves a construction worker or tradesperson.

But the programs are only one part of the equation. To learn and gain hands-on experience, they will need an exceptional mentor who can show them the ropes.

Importance of Mentoring Apprentices in Construction

Boeing Co. is known for its “leaders teaching leaders” initiative and valuing the importance of peer initiative. Besides being a construction equipment manufacturer and vendor, Caterpillar is known for having a robust professional development program. What do they both have in common? They are both monsters in their respective industries– it’s safe to say that mentorships have played a massive role in their success.

In a general view, mentoring newcomers positively affects the construction industry as a whole, whatever trade they are a part of. Apprentices who are trained and guided by phenomenal journeymen will, in turn, become skilled professionals, taking part in furthering the industry and their respective trades.

Classroom education and formal research can only do so much. These are true of great help, but nothing compares to learning hands-on from an experienced individual you can connect with on a human level.

Benefits of Mentorship in Construction

Internships and apprenticeships are vital to those who want to get into the industry. Although they tremendously gain from these programs, mentors also see some benefits from training and teaching them. More than that, the entire company, and even construction as the whole industry will reap a few seeds, too.

1. Widening your perspective

Learning in an apprenticeship program is a two-sided coin– the student learns from the master and vice-versa. Of course, it’s a given that apprentices learn on the job; that’s what they signed up for. But the mentors can also learn from their mentees.

We can admit that some, if not most, of the seasoned professionals in construction, are higher up on the age scale and are kind of out of touch with construction technology and methods. So, by spending time with their younger counterparts, they can better understand modern times. They may even be able to discover better and more efficient methods and techniques through their apprentices.

2. Develop leadership and communication skills

Working in construction has always been a team business– the crew works together on a project while most of the leading and commanding come from managers and principal contractors.

However, respective teams also need a leader. Because crew members don’t have leadership seminars or training, mentoring apprentices is an excellent way to hone this skill. Mentoring isn’t merely teaching and showing how things are done; you lead by example. So, as the apprentice goes on with their career journey, you are bettering your leadership skills.

It goes the same with communication. As you know, construction communication is a vital element between contractor and client, manager and crew, and among the workers. While working alongside your mentee, you will be able to refine your communication skills. You will learn how to concisely convey your message in a way they would understand and read non-verbal cues, such as facial expressions and body language.

Additionally, your listening skills will be sharper, as well. With all that, you will be able to appropriately respond to any message or feedback your student throws at you. As a construction worker, you can now apply your skills to your actual job. So, in a way, your student has made you a better communicator and a better worker.

3. Produce and shape better workers

This benefit directly relates to the construction industry. Because the on-the-job training for apprenticeships is done one-on-one, apprentices get a lot more focus and attention from their mentor. Because of this, you can be more detailed and particular with how you teach and how they do their job.

You are essentially training and teaching them how to work in construction. And this isn’t limited to the basics like operating machines and tools, how systems work, methods, and techniques. As a mentor, you will also shape them to be better workers: build their confidence, sharpen their problem-solving skills, and show how to deal with clients, among other things. Because they trust and believe in you, they will take all these to heart.

4. Attracting youth to construction

Today’s youth want assurance that the career path is stable and worth their time and effort. After choosing a field they want an apprenticeship in, they will need more reason to assure them that they made the right decision.

Mentors have the power to reinforce that. Through the tasks, people, and even money, you can show them that your work line is fulfilling and pays well.

5. Solve the industry’s labor shortage

The construction is currently going through one of it’s biggest problems: labor shortage. The senior employees are beginning to retire, and replacing them is a struggle because today’s youth have little interest in building a career in construction.

However, as said previously, apprenticeships and mentors have the power to get them interested. Moreover, they will be trained to be even better than their predecessors. With that, the construction industry will have solved the labor shortage problem and continue to rise.

See Also: How to Create and Manage a Construction Project Schedule

Tips on Becoming a Good Mentor

1. Have the right attitude

Not everyone is meant to be a mentor. So, if you’re offered the opportunity to be one, think long and hard if this is really for you.

Do you genuinely want to help and teach others? Do you have the patience to do so? Do you think it’s worth your time despite the lack of financial gain? These are just some questions to think about before signing up to be a mentor.

2. Carefully choose mentee relationships

Although apprentices get to choose their programs, the journeyman will ultimately decide if they are up for the job. If you choose to become a mentor, select your apprentice wisely– you can’t just pick the first one that comes along.

It helps to meet with all applicants and see who you think is a good fit personally. Because you will be spending a lot of time with them, having a good relationship is essential.

3. Mutually set expectations and establish ground rules

From the get-go, be clear about what you want and make sure you clearly understand your younger counterpart’s side, as well. Your professional partnership will not be fruitful if only one side is taken into account.

Talk about the relationship goals, the limitations of contact, how often you should meet, and how frequently evaluation and progress reports should happen. The two of you must agree on the terms to avoid any conflicts or disputes. While it’s okay to have this agreement verbally, it’s better to have it in writing.

Recommended: 10 Challenges in Construction Job Management and How to Solve Them

4. Respect the relationship

Apprentices would go far and wide to please their mentors, but you should not abuse the power you have over them.

Even though it’s easy to cancel meetings, rush jobs or multitask, or dismiss their presence, you should avoid doing those. They are working with you to learn, so you should take things seriously because their career is in your hands.

Also, it’s critical to set boundaries in your relationship. The last thing you want is to be fired for inappropriate behavior and sued for sexual harassment.

Remember that this is a professional relationship, so you should act professionally.

5. Communicate and be open

Communication is vital in construction, no matter the position or craft you are in. When it comes to mentoring, you will need to communicate. Have long enough patience to explain things to your mentee carefully. Tell them what they did wrong kindly and how they can improve. Yelling at them and keeping things to yourself will accomplish nothing.

More than that, you have to listen because communication is a two-way street. You have to understand your apprentice– listen to their troubles and guide them on resolving those. Also, be open to their suggestions. You could learn a thing or two from them.

6. Talk less, listen more

Professionals tend to have this “superior” mindset when they become mentors. Because they have an inexperienced person under their wing, they keep feeding them information and looking down on them without considering their mentee’s knowledge.

While it’s great that you’re enthusiastic, take a breath to ask them what they know. Then, you can build on that, strengthening their knowledge and honing their skills.

Remember, they got accepted into the apprenticeship program for a reason. They aren’t an empty vessel that needs constant feeding.

7. Give them independence

Mentors are there to guide, not dictate. It may be easy to tell an apprentice what to do, but you will be limiting their growth.

Let them make their own mistakes and make their way out of them. If they ask for help, give it to them, but don’t do the work for them. Giving them independence will aid in developing their problem-solving skills.

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