Just thought I would drop you a line regarding the article titled Learn the tools — and the business (Building Today October 2016).
I couldn’t agree more with author Terry Sage’s sentiments. I am currently a first-year carpentry apprentice and have, at the age of 41, been involved in several businesses, including the inception and successful operation of my own landscape gardening business.
I have a diploma in business management which I gained in my early 20s, and that qualification has proven to be of immense value over my working life.
I was very surprised to see no mention whatsoever of basic business skills or man management skills inside the carpentry training framework.
Given the degree to which many carpenters and even some apprentices may lean towards self-employment and the vast amounts of capital at play when a project is underway, you’d think it would be a core component in training from day one.
Surely, getting your work done accurately, on time, on budget, managing your taxes if you are self-employed and still being able to take your workmates along with you would be just as important as being able to skew nail correctly or pour good concrete, right?
I felt so convicted in my feelings on the matter that I put my thoughts forward in a recent BCITO survey of apprentices. I was particularly critical that course materials should be online as they are currently only in printed form which, to me, is unbelievable, given the internet as you and I know it is now more than 20 years old.
I also highlighted my concern over the absence of basic business and management skills in the training programme.
While it was pointed out to me in subsequent feedback through my apprenticeship co-ordinator that some of those skills are available in the construction supervisor qualification, it was also pointed out that my feedback may result in a new module being inserted into the upcoming revamp of the carpentry training framework.
Also, I would like to tell you about Literacy Aotearoa NZ (LANZ). I have been doing some upskilling with them with the aim of getting my mathematical literacy up to a level that I am happier with.
The results have been excellent and are feeding through into my workplace and personal outcomes.
Given the challenges with literacy that the trades are facing with school leavers, perhaps your readership may be interested in learning more about LANZ in an upcoming edition of your mag.
Terry Sage replies:
Fifty-plus articles, and Steve you are the first to put pen to paper and comment on my rantings and ravings.
Not only comment, but actually agree with my views which, I must say, was a “phew” moment when I was told a letter was on its way to me. So a huge thanks for your words and for making the effort.
The problem we are facing, which is the lack of basic business skills taught to the trades, is not a new problem — it goes back decades, maybe back to the dawning of the Masons!
I can vouch for at least 40 years of this travesty as there was not a single lesson throughout my four-year apprenticeship that mentioned money, planning, communication or systems.
Cut here, nail there, dovetail that, mitre this — what I needed some six years later was, collect your debtors on time so you can pay your creditors and stay out of the liquidation court.
The important lessons are taught and learnt during the passage of life (unfortunately).
However, the question is what should be taught during a trade apprenticeship, and how far do we go? A full business degree or a two-hour basic course?
Of course, there will be apprentices that say they signed up to cut and nail, not formulate a cash flow forecast that integrates into a fluid business plan that systemises a comprehensive human resources strategy that allows a marketing strategy to give a return on investment.
And that’s fine — the industry needs the cut and nail gang, but it also desperately needs the Steves of this world to keep the industry ticking and keepthe cut and nail gangs in things to cut and nail.
If the powers that be are reading this I think we should go as far as a two-day programme covering planning, systems, staff, marketing and financial reporting and structuring.
Show what is needed in a well-run business and point the way to further education on the subjects.
That way, all apprentices will gain a basic understanding, and the ones who are destined for the power jobs know where to go for help. Of course, the powers that be could also offer that help.
So, well done Steve for standing up for common sense and, hopefully, making a difference.