The Pros and Cons of Hiring an Apprentice

Whether you are a plumber, builder, electrician or landscaper - as the owner or senior manager of a tradie business you are always looking for talented people to hire.

You also need to watch business expenses closely, so hiring an apprentice can seem like an appealing way to bring in people who already have a genuine interest in your trade and are willing to work for very reasonable wages to gain the experience they need to become fully certified in their profession.

At first this may seem like a win-win situation, however there are hidden costs that are usually overlooked and it's important to understand the impact apprentices have on your business.

This article presents some of the advantages and disadvantages of hiring a tradie apprentice and takes the idea a step further by explaining how a balanced team of fully certified professional tradesmen coupled with a few apprentices can augment your business strategy.

Advantages of Hiring Tradie Apprentices

Cheaper Rates

The most obvious advantage and usually the first reason to consider hiring an apprentice is the money you can save since apprentices will work for lower wages.  The primary reason for this is because they lack experience, however while they do lack hands on experience, they learn aspects of the trade at trade school to supplement the on-the-job training you provide.

Personal Reward

While your business is there to make money, the personal reward you get as you are helping someone else develop can be significant.  Because you are a professional and your existing employees are dedicated to providing both good quality and service to your customers, you can feel good about bringing more people into your industry.

Menial Tasks

Apprentices can do more of the menial tasks that your experienced employees don’t want to do, and with several apprentices on your team you can allocate some of the more routine functions (including basic paperwork) to them.  This allows your more experienced professionals to focus on the more important & challenging tasks and is a "win-win-win" for you, the professionals and the apprentices.

Enthusiasm is Contagious

Enthusiasm of young apprentices can be encouraging for other workers – as you well know, experienced people can often become a bit jaded over time and when they see the enthusiasm of the new apprentices, it causes them to take a second look at their situation and usually results in everyone feeling better about what they are doing, which is positive for the business.

New Ideas

Apprentices usually bring more recent training and ideas with them – although your experienced professional may attend classes to remain certified, they are not usually exposed to the full compliment of the latest ideas and techniques.  Apprentices may already have been exposed to many new ideas and once they start working with your team, they may find ways to do things easier, faster and less expensively.

Disadvantages of Hiring Tradie Apprentices

Hidden Costs

Your apprentice might be costing more than you think.

In Australia, apprentices have 10 weeks off for trade school so this needs to be scheduled around, they are paid a wage and this time off is included in the wage – as with any employee, scheduling is important and you need to be aware of the obligation to pay them while they are in training.  Keep in mind that this actually hits you twice - not only are you paying them for time they aren't working, it means one less set of hands to do work during that period.

Constant Training

Particularly early on, apprentices require constant training, guidance and supervision (often can’t be left to do things by themselves) when learning how perform tasks, choose the right tools and how to use tools properly.  They definitely require some hand holding but it is usually worth it in the long run.  Many tradesmen who work with apprentices find the time invested is well worth the effort.

Required Commitment

Once you commit to having an apprentice you must keep them on for a minimum period of time – most schools require a minimum commitment for their apprentices so make sure you understand the guidelines and build in the right kinds of controls and expectations from the beginning

Train Up and Leave

As with any business there is always the risk that person you train ends up leaving to work at a different business with all of the experience you have given them, and this can leave you feeling a little betrayed.  However many apprentices will will be thankful and more loyal due to your training, and if you treat your apprentices well, they will more than likely be loyal to you for having provided them an opportunity to further their career.

A Balance of Professionals & Apprentices

The best approach when working with apprentices is to make sure you have the proper balance between experienced professionals and apprentices.  When growing your business there are a lot of factors to consider and you should talk to your financial strategist/mentor to determine the best balance to meet your goals.

Depending on the industry, some business owners find that a one to one relationship between a professional and an apprentice works best, while in many cases three to five professionals to one apprentice works best.  

In the end, there is no substitute for experience, but everyone needs to start somewhere in life and you and your professional team will enjoy working with apprentices who will come to love their trade the same way you do. Look back on how you got started in your business. There likely was someone who mentored you and taught you both the tools and tricks of the trade.  Now you and your team have the opportunity to “pay it forward” by teaching the next generation a valuable skill.

What's Next?

The decision to hire trade professionals or apprentices should not be taken lightly.  It's easy for business owners to overlook particular issues that can arise with apprentices.  The best thing you can do is plan out your hiring strategy with your business coach or business mentor to see what will work best for your business.

At Tradie Accelerator our training programs combine both coaching and mentoring to get the best results, so feel free to contact us from our contact page or if your prefer to talk to one of our consultants call 1300 658 403.

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