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Supervising your apprentice

Over the years, the role of a supervisor has changed significantly from being a top down, autocratic order giver to a team leader, coach and motivator.

A supervisor’s role has evolved: 

  • from ordering to asking; and consulting
  • from telling to listening and asking questions
  • from policing to coaching
  • from each person for himself to teamwork
  • from fear to mutual respect.

These changes have come about because it is now very clear that people are more productive if they are happy, motivated, and upbeat.

The ideal supervisor is one who values communication and not just being in charge. One who leads by example and involvement not just command and control. You will have to balance several supervisory functions in your role as host trainer:

Managerial - where you work with the apprentice to ensure the quality of the training meets the standards of your business and the apprenticeship.

Educational - where you help develop the knowledge and skills of the apprentice at work. 

Supportive - where you provide general support and advice in the workplace. You need to ensure that the apprentice is made aware of how you want them involved in your business so that a good host, apprentice understanding is developed.

Apprentice skill levels

Apprentices need varying levels of supervision depending on their skills, experience, and confidence. The level of supervision can be broken down to direct, general, and broad.

Obviously, a day one apprentice with no or minimal experience requires a high level of supervision, an apprentice with moderate experience a medium level and an apprentice with vast experience requires a low level of supervision.  

Direct supervision

Direct supervision is one-on-one supervision. Until you are satisfied that the apprentice is competent in the tasks required of them, it is vital that they are guided and supervised for each particular skill they develop. Once the skill is mastered by the apprentice and you deem them competent, they will still be learning and require direct supervision for additional skills development. In reality they will be continuously moving from “Direct” to “General Supervision” as they become competent in more skills. Your job as a host trainer is to provide the learning opportunity and instruct the apprentice in the relevant skills.

General supervision

General supervision is where the apprentice is allowed to work more independently as they gain the required skills. They will be moving from “Direct” to “General Supervision” as they develop competence in the various skills they are gaining. 

You remain responsible for the quality and safety of the training even when the apprentice is working under “General Supervision”. 

Broad supervision

Broad supervision means that the apprentice doesn’t require constant supervision but personal contact on at least an occasional basis. This means being under instruction and direction with checks being carried out on the completion of the task.

Always encourage the apprentice to hear all the instructions first before responding and take care to set a good example by listening to their questions.  

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