Coaching apprentices is about more than knowledge transfer

Supporting apprentices to learn and progress can’t just be about technical know-how, writes Wasim Collins, but must put their personal growth first

Supporting apprentices to learn and progress can’t just be about technical know-how, writes Wasim Collins, but must put their personal growth first

14 Nov 2022, 5:00

The Prince’s Trust Class of Covid research found that more than 60 per cent of 16- to 25-year-olds said that they were scared about their generation’s future, having lived through a pandemic only to face a cost-of-living crisis. The research found that the pandemic had ushered in a new era of uncertainty and a lack of self-confidence.

Increased confidence is a core part of what an apprenticeship can achieve for young people. That goes far beyond the transfer of knowledge and competency. For coaches, there are many pastoral care skills to develop too. These are the magic ingredients that make for excellent coaching and are essential when working with hard-to-reach young people in areas of deprivation.

First and foremost, the key part in building success in any environment is creating a positive relationship. I like to have open and honest conversations with each learner about what they enjoy doing, what they want to work towards and what journey they want to go on over the next 16 to 18 months. This can uncover mutual interests while allowing me to see how I can work best with that individual.

All this takes place before even talking about the apprenticeship or what is needed to complete it. After all, ensuring I’ve done some background research and checked that the learner is on the right apprenticeship is one of the most important steps in securing their achievement.

Having regular check-ins with the learner means I can praise them individually on anything they have done that has impressed. On the other hand, it allows me to have a conversation as to why they might not be up to standard in any areas and seek avenues to support them. It could be extra meetings or sitting down with their managers to discuss anything work-related. My job is to support and guide; this puts me in a great place to keep the learner engaged on the programme.

Nobody cares what you know until they know that you care

It also lets me work with the learner on developing social skills. I always listen first and show it by making eye contact and responding appropriately to what the learner says. Learners from areas of deprivation might not have had as many chances in life to do things that seem normal to other people, such as going to work or on holiday, or even simply experiencing structure in their lives. It is even more important to build trust with them before I ask them to do something for me.

I had a similar upbringing to many of my learners. I’ve lived in a deprived area, and learned so much that allows me to relate to their problems and have them relate to me. But shared experience isn’t necessary. There’s a saying I stand by: nobody cares what you know until they know that you care. By carrying myself in this way, I am helping to transfer these skills on to others.

But it’s important to realise it’s not only the learners’ outcomes at play in these interactions. There are always opportunities to become a better coach. continuing professional development should be woven into life as a learning coach. This involves keeping up to date on what’s happening in the sectors we work in, and having the latest training on learning delivery, including managing challenging and antisocial behaviours.

Our role is to foster development and progression, and that can’t be from a career perspective alone. Personal development is vital to our impact. Learners’ outcomes shouldn’t be the only achievement of an apprenticeship, it’s also about the ability to interact with people, and helping them apply themselves and become community role models.

By putting these aims at the heart of our practice, we make it more likely they will succeed economically. But, more than that, we ensure they are equipped to play their part in inspiring future generations to do the same.

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One comment

  1. This was a brilliant article, the reading of which was completely ruined by the HIDEOUS banner adverts across the right hand side and bottom of the page! Absolutely no need for them whatsoever and I would wager that they are so off-putting, most readers would actively avoid using the advertisers as a matter of principle.