Jul 11, 2014
This podcast will focus On Construction Apprentices and how they think. It is my intention to offer some useful insights to all Journeymen in all of the construction trades and all owners of small construction companies.
Construction Apprentices are one of my most favorite groups of construction workers because they provide a never-ending supply of good clean humor. For the record, I have a deep respect and sincerely appreciate all apprentices everywhere for they are the men and women who continually replenish the supply of skilled Journeymen and are vital members of The Greatest Industry On Earth.
Having served an apprenticeship in plumbing and passed the Washington State Journeyman Plumber Exam PLO1 in 1981 this article comes from the heart of someone who understands the good times while serving an apprenticeship.
After becoming a Journeyman Plumber, I spent several wonderful years in the trades as a construction worker and later as a contractor. Therefore, these observations are from first-hand experience. Overall, I have fond memories of the good times spent on a variety of residential and commercial jobsites.
Over the next ten years, I paid my dues to the trade by mentoring several apprentices and most of them went on to become phenomenal Journeymen and enjoyed long and profitable careers.
The information presented here are from journals and notebooks of my own experiences as an apprentice and my observations of the behavioral traits of construction workers, contractors, engineers, architects and other people who are involved in construction.
All apprenticeship programs regardless of the industry have one thing in common the Four Levels Of Learning.
#1 Freshman Construction Apprentice
I don’t know that I don’t know anything about construction so I will listen and learn for a little while until I decide the Journeyman teaching me is stupid.
#2 Sophomore Construction Apprentice
Now I know that I don’t know anything about construction, but I know a lot more than the dumb Journeyman who is supposed to be training me. He is obviously slow and stupid because he will stare at the plans for a very long time before making a decision. Why can’t he get it together so we can get to work and get the job done?
#3 Junior Construction Apprentice
Well, now I know construction well enough now that I can do it if I concentrate and stare at the plans long enough to see the entire layout in my mind. I was wrong to think the Journeyman teaching me is an idiot. I am the idiot.
#4 Senior Construction Apprentice
I know construction well enough to do it in my sleep and I really wish I had not been so impatient with the Journeyman who cared enough about the trade and me to take me on as his apprentice.
Being a Construction Apprentice is an interesting journey. I refer to it as a phenomenon where otherwise intelligent men and women regress into a mental state just above plant life because they are attempting to shove massive amounts of mental information by their amygdala and allow it to go directly into their cerebral cortex where it is stored in long-term memory.
While immersed in deep training mode the apprentice's muscle memory is being transformed at the cellular level to do things that do not make sense at the time. If they stick with the process, they will most likely come out the other side very intelligent and highly skilled Journeymen or they will quit and go into something less stressful like being a peace negotiator or rocket scientist.
Every apprentice, me included, has experienced every symptom listed below. This is a sample taken from several hundred observations and personal experiences.
1. You are very enthusiastic about learning a skilled trade
2. You wander about aimlessly on jobsites in awe and wonder
3. You dress in blue jeans, plaid shirt, work boots and baseball hat
4. You are asked what color the sky is on your home planet in the summer
5. You are told earth is full and you need to seriously consider returning home
6. You have a dazed look on your face when the Journeyman explains something, twice
7. You are told to wait in the truck while the Journeyman and the contractor talk and instead get out and start wandering around
8. You are told not to do something and do it anyway just to see what will happen
9. You have a listening problem so the Journeyman does not talk, he shouts at you
10. You are asked if you are ambivalent and you reply without thinking "Well yes and no"
11. You are like a cross-eyed discus thrower, never setting any new records but keeping everyone's attention
12. You are told the lights are on in your head; however, nobody is home now
Understanding breeds patience and leads to success. Just knowing the road your construction apprentices must travel and sharing this article with them can help make the transition smoother for everyone involved.
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I leave you with this heartfelt blessing - “The four levels of learning apply to everyone, not just apprentices and since lifelong learning is a journey relax and enjoy the ride”
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