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Difficulty finding apprentices

James Graham in Grantham can’t find anyone to take an apprenticeship with him.

A training company in East Anglia has noted that over the years the time taken for students to get the decorating bug on their courses has gone from 2-3 months to 12-18 months.

We ran a blogging competition for apprentices, with backing from MypaintBrush and Owatrol, a £300 prize and offering NVQ students a glimpse of how decorators will market themselves going forward. There was almost no response despite several colleges and lecturers aware of the competition.

Without wishing to resort to the cliches - the youth of today aren’t what they were… are these trends general, or specific to decorating, or is it just our bad luck to keep hitting brick walls and there is a muchsimpler way to recruit willing apprentices?

I wonder if there are too many youngsters going into it simply because they cant find work and it’s something to do. But they have no real enthusiasm or passion for it.

The only alternative is mature apprentices (maybe people like me) that really want to do it. The problem with that is they can’t afford to work for apprentice rates. Perhaps the whole system needs a re-think.

The system does need a re-think.

I also think the way forward is mature apprentices. It would come at a cost though - a change of mindset on both sides, being the biggest burden!

As an employer, for me the deciding factor would be the value of your whole skillset, and do you have the ability to learn really fast, and the integrity not to bugger off and go it alone, and essentially compete against the people who trained you up to be a jedi decorator.

I think there’s a paradox there Andy. If you get the right people to take on to help you and train then they should also be the people who want to get out and do it on their own and they will end up competing eventually. There’s only so much work out there so where else would they go if not covering the same area?

The best approach might be to find their strengths and help them develop that area. Then when they are ready to go it alone use them as a specialist who you can refer certain work to. That way you work with them and not against them.

You make some good points. I would challenge the assumptions about the market - it is huge so there is more work than anyone can handle. The trouble with the market is it changes quicker than decorators can keep up with.

Also, the current thinking that anyone with gumption would go it alone. Most companies have employees on the books earning fortunes, just not in the decorating world! The assumption is that in decorating an employer won’t help an employee fly and achieve within the company. The concern is totally justified but I would look to the Germans and others who invest to make sure their guys can be as productive as possible and if the company does well so do employees. Do a straw poll i bet many self employed would be further ahead financially if they worked for a company that valued them and they didn’t have to have their own accountant and business infrastructure and duplicate what a good employer already has.

To be clear I’m talking here about a general approach to enabling newbies to the trade who want to flourish.

I get what you say. But there are also two types of people. Some who want to make big money and would be happy to do it as an employee. And others whos aim is to be able to runs things their way even if it means less money. Depends on the driving force.

i have had my young lad working with me in holiday,to give him some work experience and pocket money,as well as doing decorating in house a few hours on a Saturday,but my experience with our youngsters is there just not out there,and up for work,it will take a lot off searching to find one.The system needs a rethink,where you start i don’t no.

How would you make more money working for a company than working for yourself? I don’t get how that would work.

Because your employer might make compromises and cut corners to reduce cost. You benefit from higher profit. As a one man business you might work for principals in preference to money. For example, I am particular about the paints I will use and sometimes I will absorb the additional cost where the customer wants a cheaper paint and I want to use something more eco and more expensive.

Basically on your own you can chose quality and more expensive products at the expense of profits. A big business needs growth. A one man show just needs to pay a single wage that is enough and no more.

[quote]Quote from greenpainting on May 26, 2014, 10:56
Because your employer might make compromises and cut corners to reduce cost. [/quote]

If cutting corners was the only way to make a decent profit there would be no quality companies in the world.

Paying someone well (assuming they are wired OK) and training them and affording them opportunities to develop, usually results in a well motivated happy and profitable employee.

Paying top money for labour and materials (and only speccing top quality materials) are unpopular ideas in many quarters, but I don’t subscribe to them.

I would reconsider the idea that working for yourself is the only way to get to use quality products!

Also, unless decorating is a hobby, a one man band needs to make a profit like every other business, ie your wage is your wage, then there is the money you need for investing in tools and equipment, training etc. Bigger businesses can be more efficient than a one man band, make more profit on the same high specs. Not all one man bands are ethical, nor bigger than one man bands unethical.

Interesting perspectives, always interested in how different folks view the trade.