I’ve been thinking about the training of apprentices and how the financials work (or don’t work).
The cost to the apprentice is the investment of a number of years, usually on modest wages and some hard physical graft to get themselves to a reasonable ability and understanding to be safe to be let out under their own steam.
The cost to the master/employer is time and energy spent training, the cost of materials, consumables and of course wages.
Traditionally, an apprentice agrees to a certain period, works for the master and in return receives the training, experience and a modest wage.
I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to suggest there can sometimes be tension between master and apprentice and one (or both) feel short changed from this deal. The apprentice feels he is working like a slave making the boss lots of money and getting only a little bit of training in return. The boss meanwhile can feel like he’s spending heaps of time and money training the apprentice, passing on their knowledge and then paying them a wage each week on top.
One of the problems I see is that the working/training balance isn’t often clearly defined in advance. The arrangement is so often, “you work for me and I’ll train you” and lacking boundaries.
In running a business, I’ve always tried to avoid the barter system (you trim my pony and I’ll pay you with some meat from the farm for example). Aside from the questionable tax implications, I’ve found that one party sometimes gets a better deal than the other (or at least thinks they do) and an ongoing barter deal can be problematic when one or the other party wants out. For example, not only does the farrier lose a trimming job, he also loses his supply of meat!
I see the traditional apprenticeship training system as not too much different as a barter deal – albeit a little more complex.
So why not split it up? And put a value on each half? This would give flexibility, freedom and in the tough financial climate, also open up the option of training to be a farrier to more people from all backgrounds.
Split the job into two parts – training and working.
The apprentice wants to learn. For this, there is a dollar value based on what it is worth to the apprentice and also how the master values his time and knowledge. Most likely an hourly rate would be agreed for one-on-one training with the boss. Plus perhaps the cost of materials if any. This time could be in the forge, with horses or in the classroom.
Separately, an hourly rate could be agreed for time when the apprentice is working for the boss under horses etc. During this time, there would be little or no expectation for training – just instruction on what the boss wants to get the job done.
The cost of training by the boss would usually be higher than the cost of labour from the apprentice. The rates could be open to review annually to reflect the usefulness of the apprentice as he gains skills.
These two parts of the relationship should be kept completely separately when it comes to the financial aspect. In fact, the trainee could pay for the training but not necessarily work for the boss. Similarly, he could work for the boss but not take much (or any) training if their personal circumstances dictated that. The apprentice could (if agreed) also work part time for other farriers or take a highly paid part time job for a few hours a week to fund their training.
If the apprentice decides he knows it all after two years, at least the boss feels he has had his training and input covered.
It’s also a good way for a trainee to balance and finance their education and if done correctly avoid those feelings of being short changed. It’s a flexible approach which can be structured to suit your own scenario.