Getting the best from your trainees

Getting the best from your trainees

  • Published on Monday 28 March, 2016
  • 4 min. to read


Regardless of the size or type of industry or business you are in, apprentices and trainees can have a measurable impact on workplace productivity and performance and the bottom line of your business.

Making sure your team has the right skills to suit your business allows you to meet the challenges of competition, growth and industry changes. Whether you choose to upskill your existing staff or to recruit new employees, your business will benefit from apprenticeship and traineeship programs.

When offering on-the-job training to apprentices or trainees, it’s important to remember that although everyone learns differently, certain key points remain the same no matter the person you’re teaching or the task they are learning.

The following tips will help you gain the greatest benefit from your worker, as well as giving them the best possible opportunity for success.

Understanding assists learning

Most people learn best when they understand not only what they are doing, but why they are doing it. You can actively involve your worker in their learning by explaining why they are doing tasks, why these tasks are important, and how and when you will assess what they have just learnt.

Clear communication

Take time to think about the instructions you give and whether someone unfamiliar with the job will be able to follow them. When we have been performing a task the same way for years, it’s easy to overlook small but vital steps. Write down your instructions, breaking the job into small parts if necessary.

To give clear instructions you should:

  • assume no prior knowledge
  • use clear and easy to understand language
  • include safe work practices in your instructions
  • ask the apprentice or trainee to repeat the instructions back to you to check their understanding
  • make sure there are no distractions

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Taking time to show your apprentice or trainee how to do things the correct way can make a huge difference to how quickly they learn a new task. Demonstration is a quick and effective way to:

  • show the learner the right procedure and sequences
  • explain why the task is done this way
  • use correct safe work practices

Practice makes perfect

Allow time for the apprentice or trainee to practice new skills. Everyone makes mistakes, so expect errors, and remember what is was like for you when you were learning. Repetition of new skills and tasks will build competence. Watch and coach, and:

  • be patient and give praise when it’s due
  • ask questions to encourage the apprentice or trainee to think about the work themselves and to take initiative: e.g. “that’s right, Sarah, now what should you do next” or “if the nut is seized on the bolt, how could you loosen it?”
  • suggest ways to improve and highlight progress: e.g. “you’ve mastered the register Jason, now I want you to concentrate on customer service.”

Ask questions and check for understanding

This could be as simple as checking they understand the steps involved in the task: e.g. “what are the four steps in checking the order form?” or involving the apprentice or trainee in decision making: e.g. “do you think we should we set the guide rails now?”

Asking questions can also be useful to obtain feedback, especially as a new worker may not feel comfortable approaching you themselves: e.g. “how is your training in power tools going, is there anything you don’t understand?”

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