Ted Barrett                                                   - Training, Consultancy and Technical Services

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Blog for August

Okay Folks it’s the end of the month or thereabouts so buckle up and prepare to enter my fascinating, if wacky, world for at least a short time.

This month, I have been to Witney, Sidcup, Greenwich, Swanley, Poole, Portsmouth, Bilbao, Santander, Toroella de Montgri and Estartit (for a spot of R&R with my CO).

However, in early August I spent a considerable chunk of time training a trainer. Which might sound a bit daft but sometimes, just as with sparkies on site, guys may have a shedload of experience but lack the bit of paper to prove it, so sometimes I get called upon to assist in this process. I must say that it doesn’t always fill me with a warm glow of satisfaction but when you are working with somebody who has the ability and the right attitude then it can be very rewarding.

When I was doing my teacher training (Cert Ed) we had some very nice ladies at Oxford College that made us think in quite some depth about teaching and learning. I also met some fantastic people who were obviously going to go on to become great teachers.

Socrates said many wise things about teaching such as “There is only one Good – Knowledge and only one Evil - Ignorance”. If he had been dealing with apprentice electricians, he might have modified his approach to something like “I am trying to be good, but these apprentices are fecking evil”.

Bless them, I don’t like dealing with apprentices nowadays, I much prefer to deal with mature students who are actually interested in the subject.

The thing is, I am really Gamekeeper and Poacher, for I have been the pimply youth who didn’t know what time of day it was and I have been the college lecturer.

Looking back on my life now I can easily say I was a complete prat during my late teens and early twenties. In my defence I can only say that I might have been a fool but not a bloody fool, as I realised I was too immature to get tied down too soon, and that has probably proved to be one of the more mature things I ever did.

As a trainer, I must admit to being more interested in the technical side of electrical engineering. I can do the hairy-arsed stuff and have taught how to bend conduit (double-sets and back-of-bend etc) but would much rather be involved in the more technical side such as motor technology and fault-finding.

Getting back to our new trainer, my strongest advice to anyone having to deal with apprentices would be “Don’t think you can get them to like you”. I’ve seen many guys new to the profession thinking they can do just that. “I’m only in my thirties, I’m not that much older than them. I can bond with them”.

Remember that film where the new teacher says, “My Bad” and breaks down barriers with her class. Well, forget that shit, cos that aint gonna happen. They will not like you. Some of them have spent a decade destroying teachers, they have had a lot of practice. A common tactic is “Divide and Rule” this is where they cosy up to you and complain about all the other staff. Over time, this can be very destructive as you might start to believe it and this can cause problems with your co-workers.

The problem is made worse because you are not wearing hi-vis and covered in dust and crap as you would be on site so you must be a ponce. All these theories and calculations have nothing to do with their world (and mostly they are right).

So here is my advice to the new trainer of apprentices:

·         Link everything you do to work on site (or making money).

·         If you make a mistake don’t bullshit them, they will sniff you out.

·         Be patient with them.

·         Show them that above everything else you are a “Sparky” and a trade professional. If not, give up now.

And get it in to your head you will never be their mate. The best you can hope for is a grudging respect.

So that was the “trainer Special” for this month. You might think not of much interest if you are not a trainer, but I think it does us all good to look at that side of the business for a while.

Electric vehicles are all the fashion at the moment. It’s funny though isn’t it how Eco has become a driving force for commerce and selling now. About twenty odd years ago Ford had developed an extremely viable electric car (EV1). It had even gone out on field trial in LA where all trial customers gave favourable reports. However, after coming under pressure from the petro-chemical industry all the cars were re-called, crushed and the project cancelled (Google “Who killed the electric car”). I guess the people that really run the world hadn’t moved enough stock around at that point in time.

Nowadays though “Eco” is the buzz. If you want to sell anything get “Eco” or “Green” or “Sustainable” in the title and you’re cooking. How long will this one last I wonder? What worries me is how many people are buying it. It just goes to show how gullible people can be.

Have you seen “The Current War” yet? It details the early years and contest between Edison and Tesla. Cumberpatch gives his usual ham performance as Edison (I am sure there are many far superior American actors who could have made the part much more believable). Nevertheless, if you’ve read my blog previously, you’ll know I am a great fan of Nikola Tesla. He did not, unfortunately have a head for business, so Edison managed to screw him over nearly every time. In a nutshell, Tesla was light years ahead of his time. Even where we are today would have been backward to him. Have you ever met people like that? They can be scary. They have such superior brainpower it is as if they have x-ray vision. They literally see straight through you to see the “truth”. If you were to explain the workings of a microprocessor to Da Vinci or Francis Bacon, they would instantly understand it and probably see ways to improve it.

While we are on the topic of brainy people, for this month’s bouquet, I would raise a glass to Francis Walshingham who was Queen Elizabeth the First’s Spymaster in the 1500’s. He ran a network of operatives running from the Netherlands through to Spain and beyond.  How do you keep all those balls in the air when communications were at best by way of fast horseback? The man was a sheer bloody genius and very much what we practice today as intelligence and covert ops was mastered by Walshingham.

So this month, Francis Walshingham gets my award for “Person of Merit” and Neville Chamberlain my award for being a tosspot in believing “Peace in our time”. Almost as stupid as Obama actually thinking he had a deal with Tehran (Note for future leaders: Some regimes tell little porkies).

I might reveal a little more about Walshingham in future, so standby to receive.

Goodbye for now my friends, my next report will be at the end of September.

And do try to remember the Spanish way of life; a little siesta can be most effective.

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