Author: Joseph Lloyd | Print Date: 16 August 2018

When I was a young boy a lot of my early learning and conditioning was very much dominated by females. My dad had passed away when I was only two, and my mother and I had gone to live with my aunty and her sisters. So growing up in a house with four women, two male cousins my age, in the sixties, was never dull. Although when you’re six years of age and you can knit better than you can play football, well we realised, my cousins and I needed to get out in the street more.

When we are so young I don’t think we are consciously aware of how much the people in our lives and environment are constantly conditioning us to think and act in a certain way. Apart from my friends I didn’t really have a male Influence come into my life until I was about eleven, my mother was very ill and I went to stay with another aunty and uncle for about a year.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, this was to have a really positive impact on me. This family was really positive about what they did, had strong principles, encouraged one another, were always guiding and teaching but without being patronising at any time. It’s something now, all these years later, I realise was so important for me – to compare these people, their family and home environment to the one I thought was the norm.

Although my first job was at fourteen, I started my apprenticeship a year later. After a year in the training school, I was sent on-site working alongside many older males. I had finally arrived at a place where I felt I belonged. For the next few years I thrived, I was surrounded by father figures, there was a willing teacher at every turn, of course there was plenty of banter, but I never felt I was being put down, even the playful sarcasm had a lesson behind it. These groups of men had a genuine willingness to teach, and not just the job, but every subject under the sun, even if there was a lively debate taking place it would always be driven by the search for the truth or answers. No opinion was ever belittled or shot down, there was a willingness to share knowledge and teach each other. There was no arm wrestling here, with an attitude of “what do you know”, or trying to discredit a man just because he didn’t know something; this was the land of openness, encouragement, learning, and camaraderie, and I now realise it was the best school I ever attended.

There was something someone told me at the time and it’s stayed with me all my life, and may even explain the role I find myself in now. I like to think of it as their slogan, moto or mantra: “Being involved in teaching someone a new skill, or giving them some new knowledge, that they then use to get a job, which provides for a family and put’s food on the table, well there is no greater satisfaction”.

I subconsciously implemented these principles and values a lot in the 80s and 90s, at my installation companies, when we would teach the new lads who wanted to learn the trade, although I do think we had more time back then.

The world we live in today is very demanding on our time, everything is expected to be instant, and nothing can hold the job up. So the thought of trying to teach someone the trade while you’re trying to plan, organise, assemble and install the job under constant work schedules, well, quite frankly, is just an added responsibility you could just do without.

Then add on the increasing pressure from clients and throw in the need for a whole range of additional training (e.g. asbestos training, Ipaf, Pasma etc.) before we even step foot on site.

So it’s not surprising that out attitude towards training is seen as a negative rather than a positive one, but how can we change that?  I think any change has to start with the individual, and hopefully that gathers momentum to become a collective improvement for our trade and industry.

For many of the guys that have come to us over the past year it has been out of necessity, just to gain a recognised qualification so they can keep working. However, the feedback we’ve received once the qualification has been achieved has been really positive, with many of the lads saying they got more out of the process that they thought they would.

Now we have something we can build on individually and collectively. Most of the guys are family men, with children – they are already creating an environment of nurturing, learning, encouragement and teaching for their loved ones, we just need to take those “natural” emotions and apply them in the workplace. Of course it will be challenging, frustrating but hopefully ultimately rewarding, for isn’t that what life is, and isn’t that what families are like?

Can we come together as a collective group, and start to put some pride back in what we stand for? Throughout our lives we’re always pupils and teachers, a constant cycle traveling from the unknown to the known.

Can we change our attitudes to how we receive or give new learning? Would it benefit anyone?

I’ve always been a glass half full type of guy, even when life has given me a good kicking at times, I’ve always thought that someone somewhere is having a worse time of it than me. I also believe that deep down, behind all the masks we wear, that there is a deep desire to do the right thing, and also do right by people.

Maybe, just maybe, the relationships we have, how we teach those around us, and the attitude we show each other, will have more lasting value out there than any system I ever installed in my life.

Take care out there, get home safe, and speak to you soon.

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