Master vs Apprentice: It’s all about dropping the ego

Apprenticeships are the lifeblood of the plumbing and heating industry. They help train the next generation of installers and also give small plumbers the chance to build their businesses while passing along their expertise.

Steve Harris, Technical Support Engineer at Wavin, sat down with master and apprentice duo Carl Ladd (CL, pictured above) and Mark Hall (MH pictured below), to talk about how they work together to get the most out of Carl’s apprenticeship.

Carl, you’ve become an apprentice later in life than most. What advice would you give to someone doing a career switch?

CL: Switching careers has given me a great sense of perspective, I know exactly what I want from my job. I think a piece of advice that can actually apply to anyone – whether you’re moving careers or just starting out – is to set your objectives and stay true to the path. You need short- and long-term goals, especially if you’re moving from a career where you already knew a lot of what you were doing. Drop the ego and find ways to continue to motivate yourself to learn every day.

What’s the best advice Mark has shared with you?

CL: The stuff that stands out most is the amazing business advice. Mark has taught me the importance of getting the right processes in place – whether that’s using apps or basic things like how to invoice. This is a job at the end of the day, so as well as learning the trade you also need to be open to learning about business, and that’s where Mark has been really patient in helping me get to grips with it all.

MH: At the end of the day, a lot of plumbing and heating engineers are either self-employed or work in small businesses. So getting the accounts and business side of things sorted is vital, and yet when people train apprentices they often skip that part. I want to give Carl all of the tools he needs to succeed in this career, and business acumen is absolutely a part of that.

What’s the best thing about working with each other?

CL: Mark is honest, brutally so at times! That’s why we work so well together, because I value that. He won’t appreciate me saying this, but Mark has forgotten more than I’ll ever learn, which is very humbling and goes to show how our industry is constantly changing.

MH: Going to get my own back on Carl here – I’ve really enjoyed having an older apprentice. You often find that younger apprentices can need a parent figure, which is fine but that adds an extra layer to the work you’re taking on. Carl arrived ready to graft and already had a solid skillset.

What’s your favourite memory from your time working together?

MH: I love seeing the progression in Carl. It’s really satisfying when I see him doing something that he didn’t have a clue about a few weeks before – it shows he’s listening and means he can start doing jobs on his own. It’s great to see his confidence grow.

CL: Yeah same for me really, it’s that moment when something clicks and suddenly makes sense. I also have fond memories of our very first day on the job. We were filming each other doing the pipe bending challenge, so I knew right away that we’d make a great team.

What’s the best thing you’ve learned during your apprenticeship?

CL: It’s not one single thing, but I really value the way that when Mark is teaching me a new skill, he shows me how he does it. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and I think that’s so true in our trade. Everyone has their own approach, and there isn’t always going to be a single right way to do something. Mark shows me the way that works best for him based on all of his experience, but he doesn’t claim it’s the only way, which I think is a really humble approach.

And finally, Mark, do you have any advice for someone who may be taking on an apprentice?

MH: I generally teach by going through something step-by-step, and making sure Carl knows that he can ask questions. You’re asking your apprentice to drop the ego, so meet them halfway by encouraging questions – nothing should be too small. I also draw lots of diagrams to simplify things as much as possible. If you’re on the lookout for an apprentice, take your time to find someone who clicks. Are their goals aligned with yours? Is it going to be beneficial for both of you? It’s just like a relationship in the real world, so you need to both be pulling in the same direction.

For more information on Wavin, visit: https://www.wavin.com/en-gb

Take a look at Carl’s Instagram here, and Mark’s here