This is the fifth in a series of articles exploring the mystery and history behind trades training and how it has evolved over the years to what it has become today.
“It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom” — Mahatma Gandhi
Whether CEO or apprentice, having a trusted adviser, a mentor, is important in growing one’s career and improving our personal self. The passing down of knowledge can often be traced directly to someone who influenced our lives.
Western civilization has been greatly shaped by Ancient Greece. It could be argued that no other civilization has passed along knowledge or contributed as much towards moulding modern civilization as Greece.
The Olympics, democracy, philosophy, literature and the Hippocratic Oath, along with many other facets of freedom we enjoy today, all originated in ancient Greece Before the Common Era.
So where is the association between Greek literature and apprenticeship training?
The connection is through the literary giant Homer. The story of Mentor comes from Homer’s Odyssey where Odysseus, King of Ithaca leaves his kingdom to fight in the Trojan War.
During his long absence he entrusts the care of his estate and son Telemachus to his trusted friend Mentor.
The word Mentor has carried forward from this narrative and has evolved today to now mean trusted adviser, friend, teacher and wise person who invests his/her time, energy and personal know-how in assisting the growth of another.
Mentorship has a meaningful connection to apprenticeship as apprentices work directly under the supervision of a journeyperson.
The apprentice-journeyperson relationship is vital to the learning process.
It involves patience on the part of the mentor and a willingness to trust on the part of the learner.
The idea “we can only lead as far as we ourselves have gone” is of central importance in mentorship.
Conversations with apprentices have always proven enlightening.
First year to fourth year apprentices readily tell stories of where they worked, what they learned and how they were mentored, all which give insight into their apprenticeship journey.
Trainees more often than not speak of their relationships with their supervisors above other aspects of the workplace.
A study conducted in Ontario (2015) stated that the relationship between the apprentice and the journeyperson is a critical element of apprentice training.
Further, in support of this finding, a Canadian Apprenticeship Forum study (2011) mentioned that apprentices themselves feel this relationship is meaningful and when asked to identify important characteristics in employers, apprentices rated “having a journeyperson willing to teach them” as being the highest.
Apprentices value a good teacher, mentor and champion of the trade.
The time and efforts of the apprentice while at the worksite must be respected and rewarded through a positive mentorship relationship.
According to Loretto (2018), good mentors do not take their responsibility as a mentor lightly. Some feel invested in the success of the mentee and possess attributes of a good teacher or trainer.
Many feel being a mentor requires special skills, but mentors are simply people who care and have the qualities of good role models.
In a large-scale study, Richardson (2005) identified qualities found in good mentors.
He purported that mentors listen, guide, are practical, educate and criticize constructively, while remaining positive.
Other mentorship research studies support these findings and have revealed that a lack of adequate mentoring may discourage apprentices from continuing and/or completing their apprenticeships.
Mentorship has exceptional value in the apprenticeship journey.
It is a major factor in the knowledge transfer process that occurs between a journeyperson and the apprentice.
Shown to be successful for centuries, span generations and deliver results, mentoring continues to be a key construct within the learning paradigm.
Yet, as Odysseus understood, by entrusting his son to his wise friend Mentor, a good counsellor and teacher is more than just someone who is skillful in their craft; he/she is also a wise and caring individual with a high level of emotional intelligence.
As Gandhi professed, “wisdom is greater than one.”
Dr. Lindsay Langill is a former dean of trades and technology. Langill holds Red Seal certification in three trades and has a bachelor of education and master of arts from UBC along with a doctorate from the University of Calgary. He is president of 3-Degrees Consulting Ltd.