Cell Phones and Apprentices

Apprentices & Cell Phones: To use or not to use?

The STEP team has something to say.

Earlier last year, The Canadian Apprenticeship Forum – Forum canadien sur l’apprentissage (CAF-FCA) released its report on The Impact of Digital Technologies, Automation and Technological Change: Apprentice Perspectives.

Findings from the report were collected through survey results (online or in writing). Respondents came from all regions of Canada, the majority being Ontario and British Columbia.

Some of the survey questions looked to understand how a Smartphone is used by specific trades. Some results could be expected, such as 77% of respondents who identified as apprentices in the Carpenter, Electrician, Plumber, Pipefitter and Steamfitter trades stating they use their phones to find directions to the worksite. More interesting results showed those same trades ranking high when stating they look up codes and regulations on their phones or when looking to record work to show a supervisor. When asked if they used a Smartphone for diagnostic processes or finding user manuals/fault codes, respondents within those trades said they were less likely to reach for their phones.

Times are changing for the construction industry and its use of technology. In the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum report, there was talk about specific apps and how these may assist apprenticeship training. The practical questions still stand: Should apprentices be reaching for their Smartphones while working? Should that be stopped? Should that be encouraged?

Yes, technology can help make all kinds of work easier and faster, but it can also cause distraction and the fear of it slowly replacing essential, in-person training is real.

As STEP continues to work with youth-focused groups and continues be a strong advocate for apprenticeship training, ensuring development and growth within the BC construction industry, the team gives advice daily from cell phone use to resume writing tips and career coaching. Our Regional Employment Placement Specialists know the construction industry, how it has worked and how it’s working now. Here’s what the team had to say about apprentices with cell phones on the job:

“I always advise a participant to check with their employer about cell phone usage onsite. I recommend participants use their Smartphones for notes, calendars, maps/navigation. I talk to participants about technology being an essential skill in the workplace and always recommend upgrading if someone is lacking in digital literacy skills.”
Sharon Miller, Regional Employment Placement Specialist (REPS) in Kelowna

“Typically, I advise participants to leave their phones in their cars, unless their employer requests they have their phones on hand during work hours. Many employers do not tolerate a phone on the job site, siting safety concerns. Personal phone usage is for break time.”
David Croteau, Regional Employment Placement Specialist (REPS) in Kelowna

“When I was working in the industry, I actually liked workers having their phones on them. They had my number and I had most of theirs. It made communicating much easier. I also had apps on my phone for rules and regulations to help me do my job effectively. In my role now, I advise participants to stay off their phones and don’t recommend using it over talking with a more experienced worker. They will learn what is acceptable with their employer as they go.”
– Andraya Samborski, Regional Employment Placement Specialist (REPS) in Abbotsford

“I have heard of employers getting their employees to use smartphones to track hours worked etc., and many of the job postings I see will say “Must have smartphone”. Using smartphones when you have been directed by the employer is fine. I would be concerned if any of my participants relied on YouTube or a Google search instead of asking a journeyperson on site. Codes/rules/regulations/etc. can differ greatly from place to place and this could certainly create issues. Too many people are quick to text or Google and avoid having an actual conversation with someone. There’s real value in asking someone to show you how to do something as you can ask more questions along the way and get direction as needed. When a more experienced worker teaches someone how to do a task, that more experienced worker will likely inspect the work that is done to ensure it’s correct. That’s important. I’ve had more than a few employers express their frustration with young workers and the fact that they “are always on their phones!”. I still advise participants to keep their phones in car. Texting, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, etc. can wait until their break or when they’re done for the day.”
Kyle Maggs, Regional Employment Placement Specialist (REPS) in Vancouver

Apprentice Electricians – Brett Halston and Joshua Pavlakovic
Carpenter – Jamie Dickinson