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How Our New Apprentices Have Inspired Me

March 29th, 2021

Written by Paul Harney

This month ACS welcomed the latest crop of apprentices to the company and I had a chance to talk to them about my time in the industry and the work I do here at ACS.

To say I was apprehensive was an understatement, I thought they’d look at me and think “who is this old guy”, “god this is boring”, or “when’s the next break” but I found these young people attentive, engaging and a pleasure to speak with.

Although not a natural/comfortable public speaker I think the talk went well and we ended with them asking questions. I usually find getting questions at the end of a session like this is often like pulling teeth, but each of them kept asking and the questions kept coming. In fact, I probably spent as much time answering questions at the end as I did explaining who I was, what I did and what experience, knowledge and advice I could impart.

The final question came from Polly and it was a great one “What advice can you give us on how to be a success” – WOW!!

It took me a little time to gather my thoughts, but I remembered an article I had read recently regarding Blue Tits, Robins and Cream… So, I responded thus:

When I was young, milk was delivered to your doorstep each morning in glass bottles by the Milkman. After some years, perhaps by accident or by trial and error a clever Blue Tit discovered that if they peeled the foil a certain way they could drink the cream from each of the bottles. At around the same time, by coincidence, by accident or maybe by watching the clever Blue Tit, a Robin also learnt the skill (at this point there are a lot of young wide-eyed apprentices wondering where the hell this is going, what the hell a “Milkman” is, and trying not to snigger when the old guy says the word “Tits”).

Now, a difference between Blue Tits and Robins is that Blue Tits are familial birds and very social within their kind, whereas the red breasted Robin is a solitary territorial bird often attacking other Robins while protecting its patch. (still confused looks and stifled sniggers).

After a year or so, most of the Blue Tits in the area had learnt the milk bottle skill after being taught, shown and encouraged by members of their group or by interacting with other Blue Tits that had mastered the skill. Within a couple of years every single Blue Tit in the UK had learnt this skill and passed the skill to each new generation! I remember seeing it on TV - it was actually on the news!!

Each morning, on every street across the land, gangs of Blue Tits would follow the Milkmen from house to house waiting on fences for bottles to be left on doorsteps in order to steal the cream - much to the consternation of Milkmen and breakfast tables everywhere, what was to be done? In contrast, the Robins had some success but due to their solitary nature only a small percentage ever learnt the skill. The information wasn’t shared widely and had to be re-learnt every year by each new generation of Robins (the faces now seem to be thinking that maybe this is going somewhere, but still not sure where).

Eventually, to solve this problem, people just took the easy route and began buying big plastic milk bottles from the supermarket to throw away when used. It was cheaper, quicker and more convenient - so everybody did that. No more glass milk bottles on the doorstep, no more cream, no more gangs of Blue Tits, no more Robins. Within a generation of birds, the skill was lost and now there aren’t any birds in the UK with the skill. And we have a lot of plastic bottles floating around to boot.

So, you may be thinking Polly, how does that answer your question? Well, at ACS we have many people who like me have worked in this industry for many years, like the milkman they have a reputation for working hard for their customers, going the extra mile, they have learnt the right ways and the wrong ways to do things and that the easy solution is not always the best solution in the long run and like the Blue Tits want to pass this knowledge onto the next generation….. YOU… so spend time listening to how others do things, ask questions, ask LOTS of questions (what, why, when, how, where and who), listen, learn, try, fail, adapt and try again and share with others what works for you, you may be lucky and succeed alone like the cocky, self-assured red breasted Robin, that know it all, with his tricks of the trade, the gift of the gab the natural born sales person or you can be part of a collective where knowledge is shared, problems solved and where everybody benefits from a little of the cream.

I enjoyed today, I enjoyed meeting the next generation, did I say it exactly as above, probably not, did I land the points as eloquently definitely not, have I realised I have a future in public speaking and writing, HELL NO.. but I enjoyed meeting them and will watch their progress with interest.

I’d be interested in your experience of apprentices, young people in the workplace and the sharing and passing on of knowledge.

ACS will be hiring more apprentices later in the year. Follow us on Twitter @acsacsltd LinkedIn or Facebook @lifeatACS and look out for our career opportunities.