Host an Apprentice: 5 Tips for Success

Mentors and owners of Adi’s Bike World, Adi and Val, teaching Joxcel how to use tools.

As schools get underway, Apprentice Learning is preparing 50 students for apprenticeships throughout Boston in a wide variety of businesses. These worksite partners make time each week to create a hands-on learning experience that helps students understand a particular workplace and practice the professional skills Apprentice Learning staff introduce in our six preparatory classes. Our experienced worksite partners have learned the right menu of tasks. Here is what we’ve learned from our partners:

1. Plan age-appropriate tasks including a mix of work including tasks that require higher level thinking skills.
Nearly all simple tasks are things students enjoy doing: assembling packets, doing inventory, updating a database or straightening shelves. These tasks build confidence and independence. Activities such as customer service and managing money are more challenging although apprentices report that they love doing this work. The trick is to vary tasks enough so the apprentice has an opportunity to learn more about the business by talking with you, customers, colleagues or by seeing firsthand exactly how things work.

2. Don’t expect the apprentice to take the lead.

One of the primary benefits of an apprenticeship for students is learning how to engage with adults who are not their teachers or family members. These types of social interactions are extremely rare for most students and initially, can be complex and stressful. Help ease a student’s discomfort and ask lots of how or what questions. What might be a first step you would take to tackle this task? What do you think should happen next? How do you understand the task I presented to you? How do you think our business makes money?

3. Do know that students are enjoying their experience—even if they don’t tell you!
Universally, the apprenticeship is a weekly highlight for students. Apprentices are much more nervous and anxious then they will let on, or may be learning how their body language can be perceived. Don’t worry. It’s normal! Once in a while, an apprenticeship isn’t a good fit. If that is the case, we will be in touch with you immediately to discuss changes, even to place the student in another setting better suited to his/her skills and interests. We all share the same goal that a young person’s first work experience is positive.

4. Use the experts.

When Apprentice Learning staff stops by to check in—we are not just checking on the apprentice. This is an opportunity for you to share questions, concerns or ideas about working with a young person. Use us as a sounding board. We love to talk about young people at work.

5. Have fun. It’s the Wonder Years.
Eighth graders love Apprentice Learning because they want to spend time with you. Young people at this age are in the greatest growth period in the human life cycle. The ages of 13-15 are called the Wonder Years for this reason. Apprentices are curious and eager to exercise independence and demonstrate their competence. They have intellectual capabilities that are often untapped in traditional school settings. Our oldest apprentices can vividly recall their workplace experience from their eighth grade years. The experience you create matters more than you know.