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So what is an apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships are not new. They have been around for centuries as a form of authentic teaching, learning, and engagement where a student (apprentice) works directly with an experienced practitioner (master).

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In my profession, I have both the privilege of apprenticing co-workers and selecting mentors to apprentice others. A common theme that emerges is the issue of power dynamics in an apprenticeship relationship. If you have ever had a structured co-op, internship, teacher (research) assistant position, or practicum, then you know exactly what I am referring to.

The idea of selecting appropriate mentors is a wonderful one; let’s find a seasoned and positive mentor to help the growth and development of a student.

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However, from my experience, I believe that selecting and pairing up mentors and apprentices is a most difficult task. Compatibility between personalities and ensuring that the apprentice is receiving authentic training and teaching are huge concerns of mine. When selecting mentors, my criteria include demonstrated management responsibilities, social skills, and technical skills. Furthermore, the mentor must be a stable individual who does not bring “mood-swings” or great highs or lows into the professional environment. This is particularly important in an apprenticeship situation so that the mentor has the patience to work with the apprentice and can provide a steady and continuous working relationship with the apprentice over a lengthy time period.

This is when the apprenticeship model truly shines – it is a win-win for both the student and the mentor.

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