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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 4 (July 1, 1939)

Training Apprentices — on the — New Zealand Railways

page 54

Training Apprentices
on the
New Zealand Railways

(Apprentice Instructor, Addington Railway Workshops)

In the field of industry to-day the problem of personnel is becoming of increasing importance to the engineer. The larger scope and complexity of industrial organisation and the tendency towards specialisation and rearrangement in the methods of doing work, emphasise the necessity of insuring an adequate supply of skilled artisans and practical leaders. As a factor in the solution of this latter problem, the system of apprentice training adopted by the Workshops Branch of the Railways Department is both interesting and important.

In past generations apprenticeship of the skilled workman consisted in spending a number of years in the shop receiving his instruction from the foremen and workmen with whom he came in contact. Usually there was little system in the training of those days. The foremen and workmen, however, took a genuine interest in the apprentice.

Modern conditions have wrought many changes. The foreman of to-day has a multiplicity of duties unknown to his predecessor and he is, therefore, unable to give the same personal thought and consideration to apprentice training. Both the foremen and the workmen, however, do give unselfishly of their experience and training as far as their duties will allow.

A scheme of apprentice training in the Workshops was started some eleven years ago, and has developed through periodic meetings of instructors and executive heads of departments into an organisation that, to-day, is responsible for the training of approximately 900 apprentices. Functionally, the scheme is divided between (1) supervised practical shop experience; (2) technical instruction in the apprentice school.

Under practical shop experience each apprentice receives a proportionate amount of training in every section of the trade to which he is indentured. As his apprenticeship advances so does his training become more intense in that he is given an increasing amount of responsibility which is carried out individually or in collaboration with other workmen.

During the first three years of training, technical instruction is given in working hours, at the departmental school, where each apprentice must spend three hours weekly. He is taught elementary mathematics, trade theory and machine drawing. In addition, he is required to attend at a technical college two evening classes per week, and obtain a minimum attendance of 70 per cent. of these classes held during the year.

It is interesting to compare the time spent on technical instruction with the practical training.

The period of apprenticeship is, in most cases, five years, each year comprising 260 working days. On the basis of an eight-hour day this works out over a period of five years at 10,400 hours. Of this period departmental technical instruction works out on an average of 279 hours and compulsory evening classes an average of 260 hours on a basis of 70 per cent. attendance. This makes a total of 539 hours for technical instruction: a small proportion of his complete apprenticeship—about 5.18 per cent.

This is quite satisfactory when it is realised that the aim of all such training is to produce the skilled artisan, and that technical instruction must be complementary to the practical. This
(Photo., A. N. Larkin) A winter scene at National Park station, on the North Island Main Trunk Line.

(Photo., A. N. Larkin)
A winter scene at National Park station, on the North Island Main Trunk Line.

technical instruction is required so that the apprentice may understand the principles underlying his trade and thus be able to appreciate more fully, the physical properties of the materials he is using.

Term examinations are held each year and apprentices obtaining an average of 65 per cent. or more at the final examination over three subjects pass into the next class. As an encouragement to obtain an average of 80 per cent. or more, diplomas are awarded and a special monetary allowance is granted. Those obtaining a diploma allowance for three years in succession are granted an extension of this privilege to the expiry of their apprenticeship.

The first six months of apprenticeship constitute a probationary period, during which time the boy's work and aptitude, especially the latter, are noted. It is during this period that helpful advice by experienced minds assists the lads to appreciate the requirements, opportunities and compensations of the career they are adopting. Every encouragement is given towards good progress, but at the same time the boys are made to realise that in such an organisation as the railways rigid training and discipline are absolutely necessary.

At the completion of this probationary period a report is made and, if satisfactory, an agreement is made between the apprentice, his parents or guardian, and the Department, setting out the period of training and outlining the responsibilities of the apprentice and the Department to each other.

The scheme of training would not be complete without a brief survey of the records necessary for its efficient working.

In the apprentice school office a routing page 55 board is provided on which are a number of columns representing the different groups of a particular shop. These columns are divided into squares according to the maximum number of boys that can be utilised by that group and a small card (one for each apprentice), of similar size to the square, is hung on the board under the group in which he is employed. On the small card is the name of the apprentice and the numbers of all the groups. As his training is completed in any group the group number on the card is crossed out.

At defined periods the boys are systematically routed to different groups, the cards being transferred on the board accordingly.

A “Register of Practical Training” card is made out for each apprentice, and is divided into 13 fourweekly periods representing one year. Marks are awarded each apprentice for trade efficienty, application to his work, for his school work and for general conduct. An index letter is also inserted on the card, in the space provided, denoting the class of work on which he is employed. Each card must be signed by the sub-foreman and foreman concerned.

This card is then forwarded to the apprentice school, where each term the apprentice school, where each term the information is transferred to an “Apprentice Record Card,” of which there is one for each apprentice. This card gives a complete record of his progress at his trade and departmental classes.

On the reverse side of the card is kept a history of his schooling, certificates and diplomas obtained prior to joining the Service. Also a complete record of his night classes and other instruction, and in addition any special qualifications he may obtain. A shop training manual also is kept in which is recorded the periods spent in each group by an apprentice and the class of work performed.

From the foregoing it can be realised that the Department has a complete record of all apprentices from the day of commencement in the Service until completion of training and these records are of material value in selecting young men for the higher classes of work.

The scheme of training outlined is aimed basically at producing thoroughly competent and intelligent workmen. At the same time it is broad enough to lay the foundations for those who wish to advance their studies and prepare themselves for the positions of foremen and for technical positions as these become available in the future.

Apprentice training cannot be measured in monetary terms. It is an investment, the return for which, it is readily acknowledged, is in the development of those qualities essential to successful work—self-reliance, efficiency, loyalty and co-operation.

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