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How to Manage Apprentices: Best Practices, Tools, and More

Written by Ellen Zhang on June 3, 2021
4 min read

Apprenticeships are an important type of workforce development program. They enable individuals to get on-the-job training while going to school for related and supplemental education. One of the first national apprenticeship systems was in the 16th century in England. Back then, craftsmen would manage apprentices for up to seven years, while today’s apprenticeships typically last one to six years. Eventually, the practice spread into other fields like medicine and law, and today there are more than 1,000 apprenticeable occupations recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor

Value of Hosting and Managing Apprentices

Most apprentices are in their mid-twenties and are new to your industry. As a teacher and employer to an apprentice, you are providing them with valuable work experience, an opportunity to get their foot in the door, and other benefits like networking. According to Apprenticeship USA, 90% of apprentices become full-time employees with the company after completing their apprenticeships. And on average, those who completed apprenticeships earned $300k more throughout their careers than their peers who did not. Plus, having a career that one enjoys, feels supported in, and develops expertise in will help fulfill basic and psychological needs, setting your apprentice up for a fruitful future.

Best Practices for Managing Your Apprentices

Before you take on your apprentice, here are some tips on how to manage apprentices effectively:

  1. Goals, expectations, and scheduling

One of the first things you should do before your apprenticeship program starts is to set goals, expectations, and your apprentice’s work schedule. The work schedule is especially pertinent if your apprentice is remote or part-time so you know what hours you can expect your apprentice to be working. In addition to creating a work schedule, setting goals can help set project deadlines and shape your dynamic. Consider creating a road map towards their end goal, which you can organize on paper or using online tools.

Discuss both your expectations and the apprentice’s so that you stay on the same page. If you’ve worked with apprentices before, let them know what worked and what didn’t.

  1. Orientation

Welcome your new apprentice with a no-pressure, fun first day of orientation. Make this their time to meet other employees, get to know their workspace, and let them in on your favorite places to go on breaks or after work like a cafe around the corner. If the apprenticeship is remote, make sure they’re set up with everything they need prior to day one and kick off your apprenticeship program with a day of virtual events and meet-and-greets. Symba’s tool can facilitate the onboarding process, provide a centralized location for resources, and help build community. 

Get to know other things about them that are not work-related like other hobbies or creative projects. Show interest in what led them here, what their passions are, and what you relate to. 

  1. Open communication

Promote open communication so that your apprentice feels confident to ask questions or give their opinion. Listen to them when they speak up, and honor their voice. They will be more comfortable contributing if you create a brave space for them to be heard. In addition, being open to learning from them can teach them to proactively listen and remain curious about new ideas. 

  1. Delegating tasks

Delegate important and relevant tasks to your apprentice. Give them tasks that are considerate of their goals and schedule, with reasonable deadlines. When you manage apprentices’ tasks ahead of time, you prevent them from asking you what they should be working on that day.

  1. Encourage their creativity

Encourage them to think outside of the box where appropriate to foster their individualism and creativity. This will also develop their confidence in contributing new ideas and add to a strong professional identity. 

  1. Note-taking system

Your apprentice may already have a preferred method for taking notes. Talk about how they can organize their notes to be useful, and where you jot things down yourself. Let them know about online tools like Evernote where they can organize and access their notes, questions, or to-do lists. It may even be useful for you to be able to access their notes to see what they have retained or missed.

  1. Have regular check-ins

Checking in with your apprentice keeps your communication flowing and allows for feedback from both parties. This can be done informally outside of the office by grabbing a coffee together or some other activity like walking. If your apprentice is remote, make sure you have regular 1-on-1s set up. Ask them how they think they are doing, what they are enjoying the most, and if there has been anything particularly difficult. Let them know during your check-in sessions what you have been impressed by and how you have seen them grow. 

  1. Constructive criticism

Giving constructive criticism and positive feedback is crucial in any teacher/student relationship. Also, know when it is appropriate to give constructive criticism or point out mistakes, either during check-ins or with a feedback tool but try not to do it in larger group settings. Have a firm but compassionate hand, and remember to highlight what they did right as well.

  1. Keep track of their hours

Help your apprentice manage their hours through your company’s time log and payment system. You can also use your check-in meetings to make sure they’re on track with their goals—they don’t want to be an apprentice forever!

  1. Involve them in the company

Keep your apprentice involved in company events and gatherings, especially if they are introverted or haven’t had opportunities to integrate with the rest of the company. Make sure to celebrate their milestones, work anniversaries, or birthdays. Add them to a company calendar that everyone accesses so that they are in the loop or share calendar invites with them. If your apprentice is remote, be sure to incorporate virtual events they can participate in; game nights, virtual happy hours/coffee chats, etc.

Overall, being supportive, providing valuable experiential learning, and helping apprentices reach their goals is how to manage apprentices effectively. 

Tools to Help Manage Apprentices

There are several tools out there to help you manage specific aspects of your apprenticeship program. For the HR administrative side, you can leverage technologies such as applicant tracking systems, time log and payment platforms, and more to help you organize the hiring process and ensure your apprentices get paid on time. Tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams facilitate communication with your apprentices. 

If you’re looking for a tool that simplifies the management of your program and allows you to track metrics, our team at Symba has built a powerful platform. You can easily onboard your apprentices, manage their projects, give feedback, foster community and engagement, and track important metrics in order to improve and optimize your program.

Interested in learning more? Sign up for a demo and see how we can help you optimize your apprenticeship program:

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Ellen Zhang

Ellen is the Chief Marketing Officer at Symba. Prior to Symba, Ellen worked in the cybersecurity industry, marketing data loss prevention (DLP) and cyber insurance solutions. She graduated from Boston College with a degree focused on Marketing and Information Systems.

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