Why trainers fail and apprentices don’t listen

A blurred image of a teacher and some students raising their hands

The world of apprenticeships is interesting and fulfilling. The trainers get to take an individual who is keen to learn and apprentices can pass all the assessments that enable them, newly-qualified, to take on new roles with competence.

For the apprentice, this is an opportunity to not only earn some money while studying but to learn whilst performing the role they aspire to hold in their own right. A more immersive learning experience than that of traditional textbook academia.

The way apprenticeships are designed means that the learning journey is far more accessible to a lot of individuals, particularly those who found compulsory education a challenge. Apprentices get to learn from industry experts who have many years of experience, but this can be both a blessing and a curse.

Why trainers fail

An important part of education is to remember the saying

“If a person is not able to learn the way we teach, we must teach the way they learn”.

This can be a huge challenge to trainers, particularly those who may well have been educated in an authoritative manner themselves. For every trainer who is resistant to change there are many more who can see the benefits of changing teaching practices and are keen to give learners the best experience possible.

These trainers are susceptible to feeling helpless and frustrated when despite their best efforts they are unable to engage particular individuals, or they are unable to remove a particular barrier to learning that an apprentice may have.

Trainers can be left confused as to why an individual who has such a great opportunity in front of them is choosing to behave in a way that is not helpful and even disrespectful to the trainer and their peers.

To understand why this happens we have to become detectives and great listeners. All behaviour is communication, however, sometimes we need to use more than our eyes to see what is being communicated.

If the trainer is unable to teach the apprentice and the apprentice is unable to listen to the trainer the situation becomes untenable for everyone.

One of the biggest reasons for the loss of the ability to be able to engage in a learning environment is loss of hearing. I am not talking about not being able to hear due to environmental sounds, although this could be a factor. I am referring to the loss of sound as a result of anxiety or panic. Once a learner starts to feel uncomfortable they can go into fight-flight, freeze mode.

The brain will shut off the hearing to give more energy to the heart and breathing so the body is ready to fight or run away. The individual who makes unhelpful comments or uses other distraction techniques may well be in fight mode. This behaviour may be so deeply engrained they are not even aware they do it. When you take the time to explore this behavioural communication most likely you will find the cause to be school trauma.

The trainer needs to be able to establish a safe relationship with the apprentice and support them to heal mentally. Trainers need to adapt their training style to one of a trauma-informed trainer.

The apprentice needs to build their confidence and feel safe in order to learn.

Once basic needs are met apprentices are less likely to slip into the fight, flight freeze mode meaning they can focus on the teachings of the trainer. A far more beneficial situation for everyone.