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Pete Howlett
12-07-2016, 12:08 PM
Whilst visiting with Jason Villa and his team of young enthusiastic builders at Kala US I was astonished to discover that most of them had been recruited from the warehouse! The remarkable work they due is a tribute to Jason and Mike's vision and training, that these callow youths produce the work they do with just the vaguest background in luthiery is almost beyond belief. Amazing I thought...

So I decided to take on a part-time apprentice with no knowledge of the industry or history working with her hands. And hey presto, it works! If someone has half a brain and desire to get things right you can train them. If they are a fully functioning, thinking person you don't have to keep punching the same information into them and as long as you give them a single step to do, it all works fine.

I'm going to make short documentary on this interesting experiment and will post it when it's done. It will include some footage from the interviews I did at Kala in Petulama..

DownUpDave
12-07-2016, 12:31 PM
Whilst visiting with Jason Villa and his team of young enthusiastic builders at Kala US I was astonished to discover that most of them had been recruited from the warehouse! The remarkable work they due is a tribute to Jason and Mike's vision and training, that these callow youths produce the work they do with just the vaguest background in luthiery is almost beyond belief. Amazing I thought...

So I decided to take on a part-time apprentice with no knowledge of the industry or history working with her hands. And hey presto, it works! If someone has half a brain and desire to get things right you can train them. If they are a fully functioning, thinking person you don't have to keep punching the same information into them and as long as you give them a single step to do, it all works fine.

I'm going to make short documentary on this interesting experiment and will post it when it's done. It will include some footage from the interviews I did at Kala in Petulama..

This I find very interesting and uplifting. In another life time I was a production manager in a large woodworking shop. I hired a number of young people with a good work ethic and no woodworking experience and they all became wonderful woodworkers. One young guy was in the gangs and trying to get out and lead a normal life because he fell in love. He couldn't do simple division or read a tape measure. Seven years later he was the production manager of that shop and still is today.

Good for you Pete for sharing this with us and I look forward to hearing more about it.

lauburu
12-08-2016, 09:42 AM
I worked in the computer industry for over 30 years and found out early that my best teams were made up of people I employed because of their attitude. You can teach skills. You cannot teach attitude.
Miguel

kkimura
12-08-2016, 10:26 AM
I knew of a machine shop owner who could learn everything he needed to know about prospective apprentices by asking them to sweep up the shop. Attitude and organization clearly evident as they cleaned up the floor.

Mivo
12-08-2016, 11:12 AM
My experience with training people is that new brooms always sweep well, as we say in German. There is always a lot of motivation and excitement in the beginning, but it's only after a longer period that you can tell if, and how, someone is working out. It's a bit like with relationships: true colors often only show later on.

kkimura
12-08-2016, 01:13 PM
Yes, I agree, only time will show if the broom can continue to clean well. However, brooms that fail to show potential for cleaning from the beginning may need to be cast aside before investing too much time with them.

So listen up all you new brooms out there!

;)

Mivo
12-08-2016, 02:24 PM
True, initial impressions do matter also. :) (My experiences are in the customer and community management areas, nothing like luthery, so different kinds of brooms too.)

Dan Gleibitz
12-08-2016, 08:35 PM
Damn it you guys. Now I can't decide what I need more, an apprentice or a broom to shift the inch of sawdust I've decorated my shed with.

Seriously though, nice stories. I like the idea that it's still possible for people to start at the bottom and work their way up. Too often it seems that people get pigeon-holed and stuck due to education or background.

Pete Howlett
12-08-2016, 09:26 PM
Well, interesting comments. I actually don't believe in 'testing' students with menial tasks - in fact there are none such, even sweeping the floor, that I would class as low level mind numbing tasks that students are supposed to somehow prove themselves by attacking with wit and gusto! What Kala had done, and the model works, has given apprentices meaningful tasks that come with responsibility. That is the trick. It's not the task per se but the relevance it has to the brand, the other operations and the working group as a unit. Doing stuff just for the sake of it is unproductive.

As it happens, without being asked, my apprentice picks up the broom each night and clears up everyone's mess. She knows what is expected of her without being told. That is what is required - initiative :)

Gary Gill
12-09-2016, 12:40 AM
Short on experience but long on enthusiasm can go far.

Choirguy
12-09-2016, 01:41 AM
I simply like that the apprentice is described as "her." I'm still relatively new here, but it seems that the majority of professional luthiers are male...I haven't seen any mention of female professional luthiers since I joined and started learning more about ukulele. As you approach the final build Pete, how awesome would it be if your new female apprentice started her own line of custom ukuleles someday?

kkimura
12-09-2016, 03:11 AM
Well, interesting comments. I actually don't believe in 'testing' students with menial tasks - in fact there are none such, even sweeping the floor, that I would class as low level mind numbing tasks that students are supposed to somehow prove themselves by attacking with wit and gusto! What Kala had done, and the model works, has given apprentices meaningful tasks that come with responsibility. That is the trick. It's not the task per se but the relevance it has to the brand, the other operations and the working group as a unit. Doing stuff just for the sake of it is unproductive.

As it happens, without being asked, my apprentice picks up the broom each night and clears up everyone's mess. She knows what is expected of her without being told. That is what is required - initiative :)

Sounds like your sweeper is a "keeper".

Dan Gleibitz
12-09-2016, 03:27 AM
Out of interest, are these Kala USA employees true apprentices who will receive training and practice in all aspects of instrument building, or are they given a single task/step to repeat?

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
12-09-2016, 05:44 AM
Something of interest

http://stuartdayguitars.com/guitarblog/index.php/2016/12/09/apprenticeships/

Michael N.
12-09-2016, 11:37 AM
I simply like that the apprentice is described as "her." I'm still relatively new here, but it seems that the majority of professional luthiers are male...I haven't seen any mention of female professional luthiers since I joined and started learning more about ukulele. As you approach the final build Pete, how awesome would it be if your new female apprentice started her own line of custom ukuleles someday?

They do exist, just that they represent a very small minority of luthiers. Back in the very early 90's I worked next to a very good violin maker who was female. I'm not ashamed to admit it but she had a higher skill level than me and I'd been making longer. Sadly her career was cut short due to health reasons.