Goto your account
Search Stories by: 

Soapbox & Opinions

Stephen Dibb of Stephen Dibb Jewellery
Stephen Dibb of Stephen Dibb Jewellery

Give a jewellery apprentice a go

How many apprentices are you going to train? My goal is 10. Yes, that’s right. My goal is to train 10 apprentices over the course of my career. I’m well on my way to achieving that objective too, having already trained seven.

I was an apprentice myself at 15 and a tradesman by the time I was 19 so when I started my own business, I was always keen to support the industry’s new recruits. You may not ever be able to pay back your employer but you can pay it forward so to speak.

While that may have been my initial motivation, the incentives extend far beyond that. Apprentices bring fresh ideas to the table. They’re savvy with social media and they’re in touch with popular culture, which I’ve found to be particularly beneficial when working with our younger clientele. The creativity they possess isn’t just from seeing things in magazines; they’re doing different forms of technical drawing and using CAD. Think about the training they’re getting at school these days and
I’m sure you’ll find it’s very different from the sorts of things that were taught 30 years ago.

I think some jewellers are afraid about their ability to be successful teachers or to commit to the four-year duration of an apprenticeship.

In my opinion though, it’s always better to have a crack. If it doesn’t work out, at least they’ve provided someone with a headstart and there will always be another jewellery store to pick them up.

So how does a business select a first-rate apprentice? I would suggest conducting a comprehensive interview and trial process.

It’s worked for my store – not to brag but four out of the seven apprentices we’ve trained have won design competitions, including the JAA awards and the Diamond Guild Awards, from which our current apprentice recently took home the prize for emerging talent. There is a myriad of avenues to find apprentices. Why not approach TAFEs for their pre-apprenticeship course graduates or organisers of art competitions?

Successful employer/apprentice relationships stem from being discerning and upfront about the realities of working in the industry. This means explaining to potential candidates the honest truth about what it’s like to be a jeweller: what the job entails, what attributes are required, what the pay rates are, expectations for personal presentation and what the workshop culture is like – is it one where they will speak to a lot of customers or is it a workshop where they won’t see any at all.

Following the interview process, we normally trial three candidates on the workbench for a day where they perform tasks like filing and cutting out coins. While no one does it properly the first time – many actually break their saw blades! – we’re looking at their attitude and basic hand skills.

I would also recommend literacy and numeracy tests as well as analysing someone’s ability to communicate.

Ask yourself whether they’re good at listening and relaying information. This will help to indicate how they will interact and build rapport with customers. In addition, why not ask them to bring in design sketches or other creative projects like crafts or models that provide insight into their skill and dexterity?

Last but certainly not least, make sure the chosen apprentice is someone you like. It might sound superficial but you’ll be investing four years of time and resource into this person so you really do need to care about their welfare.

I know there are some jewellers who haven’t contemplated taking on an apprentice and to them I can only say that it’s been really beneficial for my business, something I believe is key to securing our industry’s future.

The trade is changing but our ability to design and make jewellery within a timely manner that suits the tastes of local consumers will be our saviour from overseas competition, and it’s not just storeowners who have the ability to support young jewellers. Other benchies also play an important role by providing support and encouragement to any apprentices that have been hired at their workplace.

Members in our industry too often complain about the lack of support for apprentices, saying it should be the Government’s role. This is true only to a certain point. I think people should look in the mirror and ask themselves, “What am I going to do?” and “How can I help to give someone a start?”

It’s time to put our future into our own hands.

Name: Stephen Dibb
Company: Stephen Dibb Jewellery
Position: managing director
Location: Brisbane, Queensland
Years in the industry: 36

enewsletter banner 2

Tuesday, 10 December, 2019 06:04am
login to my account
Username: Password:
Skyscraper 3
Display 2
Display 1
(c) 2019 Gunnamatta Media