Taking on a Decorating Apprentice

By Mike Cupit


I’ve been a self employed decorator for well over ten years now and in that time I’ve built up a nice little business. I’ve also had a few apprentices, a couple of them worked out, most didn’t. There are loads of negatives to taking on a young lad or lady, but when you get a good one, they’re invaluable!!


In this blog I’ll go through both the negatives and the positives of taking on a decorating apprentice, then go through the process I take when looking for the right one.



The Downside of Taking on an Apprentice


Ok, I’m going to sound like my dad here, but the kids of today just don’t want to graft!! They’re fresh from school and aren’t used to physical labour. It’s a shock to the system for them. (It must be hard to be fair, but they just need to suck it up). It’s an ongoing battle to get them out of bed in the morning, looking presentable, actually turning up and all the rest of it. Plus, while they don’t know the trade, it takes so much of your time going over what they’ve done that it isn’t cost effective either. You go through them too!! They get fed up, start missing days, then you’ve got to sack them and start all over again. All that time you’ve invested in them is wasted.


The Upside of having an Apprentice


If you can find one that’s willing to throw themselves into it, stay focused and not let you down, after a few months of learning you’ll have a valuable asset. Menial tasks like prep work, washing tools out, cleaning up and tidying the van are all taken care of. You still need to check over what they do and try and teach them, but they make life a lot easier.


Finding the Right Apprentice


The only way to know whether a newbie is any good in my opinion is to give them a trial run. I just stick an add on Facebook and talk to a few of the people who apply. Unless alarm bells start ringing straight away, ask one of them to come and do a weeks’ graft, then both parties can decide if the position is right. Deliberately give them the worst jobs to do too!! If they stick at if for the whole week and throw themselves into the work, offer them longer. If they don’t impress you, wave goodbye and trial a different one. I wouldn’t bother putting them into collage until they’ve done a few months in the job and you know they’re likely to stick with it.

I have phoned the local collage in the past and asked them if any of their decorating students needed a start. They normally do, but I understand they need a chance, but there’s a reason they don’t already have an employer.  None of those I have picked up through collage have worked out.



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