We have all heard the axiom — “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” That is so far from the truth when it comes to the trades. In fact, in order to teach the trades, most instructors need to have at least a few years of actual work experience. And, it is an important requirement, as real-life experience is vital to teaching the next generation of tradespeople. So, in addition to real-world experience, what traits and skills do trade schools look for when searching for new instructors, and how do you know if you’d make a good candidate to teach the trades?
Instructors are needed
Everyone knows there is a problem in the trades — there are simply not enough skilled workers for all the jobs available. This is not changing anytime soon. In fact, the problem is predicted to get even worse as baby boomers continue to retire with not enough people in line to take their place.
A lesser-known issue exacerbating the problem is the lack of instructors. That’s right; how can we expect to get enough skilled workers when there are not enough people to teach them? At my trade school, when I need instructors, they are not easy to find.
Instructors are vital for keeping the trades staffed, and now more than ever, they are needed to help decrease the skilled trades gap. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough people willing to pass on their knowledge, but that can change. If everyone in the trades decides to help the next generation, maybe we can teach our way out of this dilemma.
There are requirements
Before you decide if you want to teach, you must know that there are usually at least two requirements to teaching a trade; a high school diploma and between three to five years of experience working in the trade you want to teach. (Requirements can vary depending on the state and the school).
Additionally, it is important to recognize that it is a commitment. Students will count on you for their future, so it is not something to take lightly. Teaching one class can make a big difference, but it does require blocking out time, as one term can be 12 weeks or more.
Should you teach?
While trade schools have many programs and will probably offer one in your field, not everyone makes a good candidate for teaching. Who hasn’t had a class where the teacher was not getting their point across and couldn’t engage with the students? I am sure you will all agree; not only do we need instructors, but we also need those who can truly connect with students, after all the teachers we remember are the ones that inspire us.
Unfortunately, there aren’t enough people willing to pass on their knowledge, but that can change. If everyone in the trades decides to help the next generation, maybe we can teach our way out of this dilemma.
Here are a few traits I have found that make up a talented instructor:
Communication — This is probably the most important trait. Having the ability to clearly communicate your point is essential. Great teachers are able to help students understand key concepts through verbal, written and visual instruction. There are a number of ways to gauge your communication abilities but the easiest way is to ask someone close to you if you communicate well.
Organization — Teachers need organizational skills similar to what tradespeople need out in the field. On a job site, you need to keep an orderly work area, maintain a safe work environment, interact with people and keep projects on track. Similarly, maintaining an organized work environment for students is key to providing a safe and inviting learning experience. Orderly surroundings create a much better environment to learn in rather than one that feels scattered and in disarray.
Being an organized person will also help when preparing lesson plans. Now, don’t panic at the thought of undertaking this task. More than likely, the school where you teach will already have one, but you should take the time to customize it to your particular teaching style.
Passion — Getting enjoyment from sharing knowledge is a common trait of most successful teachers and can be contagious. If you are passionate about your trade, there is no doubt that it helps in engaging students and teaching the subject will be easier to accomplish.
Credibility — To teach effectively, students must believe that what the instructor is saying is true and not something that they are unsure about. This will require a trade instructor to exhibit confidence when they are explaining and demonstrating trade-related activities.
Commanding attention — When you speak, do people listen? As a tradesperson, you need to command the attention of your customers and employees. If they are not listening to you, nothing gets done! This is similar to teaching a group of students.
Engaging personality — An engaging personality enables teachers to connect with their students. This is often done by asking questions and telling stories about work experiences. That connection is vital to ensure students really understand what is being taught.
Time management — As with most things, there is a limit to how much time you have to get the job done. This is also true for teaching the trades. There are a number of lessons that must be taught in order for students to learn what they need to be successful. If you take too long on a lesson, students can get derailed and fall behind. While good trade programs have guidelines to help instructors focus on specific learning objectives it is still important to manage time to stay on track.
Now, if you think your skills reflect the traits outlined above, and you have the time to commit, I would implore you to consider imparting your knowledge onto the next generation. It is vital for the trades to have a pipeline of skilled workers, especially if you own a business, because workers are your lifeblood. Give a little of yourself now and reap the rewards well into the future.