Thought Leadership

Characteristics of a Good Apprentice

  Edge Factor Team   |     November 07, 2023 |   5 minute read
Characteristics of a Good Apprentice

Becoming an apprentice is a great way to master a specific trade for those interested in using their hands and their minds to push back the edge of what’s possible. As we shared in the   “Why Care about Apprenticeships”,  an apprenticeship provides hands-on training for those who want to work in a skilled trade. The apprentice develops work-related skills while learning from someone who is a master of the trade.  Beyond technical skills, what makes a good apprentice? 


Malcolm Gladwell, the author of “Outliers” suggests that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at any one task,  which works out to about 40 hours a week for 5 years. The average apprenticeship program lasts about 4 years, setting the apprentice well on their way to becoming an expert and they’ll be earning a substantial income while learning. 


Practice alone won’t make you an expert. 


Expertise is contagious. Spending time with people who are willing to invest in you and share their knowledge with you will give you the edge you need to succeed in becoming a master-apprentice. 


Your attitude more than your aptitude is what will motivate a mentor to pass on their knowledge to you. Soft skills such as being teachable, versatile, and humble are vital to the success of the skilled trades. 


“Soft skills are what will differentiate you from the person next to you.” Tracy Long, Vice President Communications, ABB 


5 Characteristics of a Good Apprentice




Here are the top 5 characteristics that will motivate a mentor to pass on their expertise to you. 


  • Be Teachable. Things are constantly changing, so you need to be prepared to be constantly learning. Every day we are presented with new challenges and new skill sets to master.  There are many benefits to lifelong learning including improving personal and professional skills, improved self-confidence and self-motivation. Being self-motivated and teachable is a core component to employee development. To be open to learning requires that we not be afraid to make mistakes as we recognize them as opportunities to learn. 

“Some of our biggest failures can be our best learning points.” Randall Friesen, Strategic Programs Manager, Washington  State Building & Construction Trades Council 


  • Being attentive to others can substantially improve your life. Not just personally and academically but professionally. People who pay attention have a better memory, are more patient, and are better problem solvers. 



  • Being adaptive means you’re able to adjust your plans when circumstances change. It’s great to have a plan, but the reality is when we implement the plan surprises are inevitable, we can’t predict every possible outcome. Keeping a positive attitude will help you change as the job changes. 


  • Humility is understanding that you are no better than anyone else. Being aware that every interaction with others is an opportunity to learn something new. Being humble allows you to listen and learn from others regardless of their age or status, etc., 


“Being open to being wrong or making mistakes would have allowed me to learn even more,” Meghan West, President of Mastercam 


  • Communication involves sharing information and receiving information.  When speaking we need to be careful, clear, and concise. When listening to others be engaged and ask questions. Don’t make assumptions. Language can be tricky and easily misunderstood. Asking questions and repeating the message to confirm you understood correctly will avoid unmet expectations. 


Listen, learn, do


The 5 characteristics can be summed up in this one quote from Jeremy Bout. Founder & President of Edge Factor: “Listen, learn, do. Listen, learn, redo.” This phrase can be applied to an apprentice as well. It’s important to listen in order to learn, then practice what you learned by doing.


Mistakes are inevitable at the first attempt, so you’ll need to listen to the response from your action, learn where you went wrong, and then redo the task. Rinse...Repeat. The key is to implement the top 5 characteristics as you continuously go through this cycle.   

Want to learn more about what it takes to be a good apprentice? 


Discover the power of apprenticeship programs and explore career pathways when you participate in the Apprenticeship Week free programming. Watch and share FREE media to discover apprenticeable careers, STEAM on-the-job, and soft skills!


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