Will you apprentice me?

I receive more and more requests from people, young people mostly, those who have gone through normal state educational channels, looking to apprentice with me. These young people see the well intended but flawed perspectives offered in government-led and funded apprenticeships because they seek something much deeper than becoming employable at mere levels in existing systems. I conclude that they want something off the conveyor belt they grew up on to pursue an alternative way of life—more of a living reality that cannot exist in what has become normalised to actually displace and replace true vocational apprenticeships.DSC_0018

I am cautious to say something here because I don’t want things to be said or taken the wrong way. I believe that teachers preparing children for their future adult life are hardworking, dedicated individuals operating to give children in education the best they know how within the limits such structured education places on them. In the meantime, we currently face a dilemma. What happens to the ones who don’t want a conveyor belt adulthood, educational debt and worse still an empty and unfulfilled life ? Advice they’ve received for half a decade says education paves the way to success and a good degree guarantees a good future, yet all those around them seem, well, less than happy, and even to be still searching for something that maybe passed them by. DSC_0020

We on the other hand are making inroads to further educate and train the new-genre woodworker; progress I might never have thought possible ten years ago. Not only are we making a difference locally, and nationally but internationally and beyond measure. Barriers that once existed culturally seem less day by day and that’s good, but taking in apprentices for lifestyle woodworking means developing an alternative strategy to counter the culture. That’s my goal.


I hope you will return for something I am working on for young people that is ageless and limitless. Something that enables and equips young men and women to cross over into maturity without jumping through any more hoops.

7 thoughts on “Will you apprentice me?”

  1. “Will you apprentice me?”
    That really puts you on the spot, Paul. I won’t ask that question because I’m too old. Younger folks haven’t got the range of experience that would prompt them in your general direction, understanding that it will be someone or something other than you personally who would take them on and help them step off the conveyor belt.
    I rode the conveyor belt and only got off when (1) I was financially able, and (2) I knew it would be the death of me in, oh, so many ways. There is only one opportunity that I regret not taking — the military. (Here come the objections!) All these years later I can understand how such an unexpected pursuit might have liberated me. It might have given me the personal, really personal tools to realize my true self-worth.
    That’s my point: when the doors all seem closed, that’s when opportunity is most open. And it might be through a completely unexpected doorway. You can’t personally apprentice all those who ask, but all those who ask, who sense the need in their lives, might just find their paths down unexpectedly shadowy lanes that the mass of others don’t even perceive.
    So, old as I am, (a few years your senior, sit) and not having had what you’ve had and created for yourself, I’m personally watching carefully to spot the paths that just might be surprisingly open to me, that I can take chances with, and if I watch and learn, maybe I’ll have the personal tools in hand to follow them.

  2. An interesting perspective. The best advice I ever received as a young person starting out in the world was to make your hobby into your living. find what you are passionate about and what you would do whether you were paid for it or not, and make it your life’s work, make the paycheck just a bonus.

    The challenge is in knowing yourself enough to define what that is. I see many young kids finishing high school, and going on to university without having found themselves. Paying huge student loans looking for the pay day that gets them the large house and the nice cars, instead of looking for themselves and learning what makes you who you really are.

    Society tells our young people that this consumer life is the pinnacle of true success, and we as parents, wanting a better life for our children then we had, buy into it and put tremendous stress on our children to go to college, get that 6 figure salary, and lose sight of the most important life lesson we can pass on to our children, which is to know yourself, and be true to yourself.

    Paul you are really lucky to have found out who you are at such a young age and turn your passion into your livelihood. It is a truly rare gift.

  3. Don’t leave the middle aged folks out, Paul. Inspiration has struck us (me?) to step away from the assembly line. It will take work to master the tools and techniques you are teaching, but one day in the not so distant future, when I hang the sign on the front of the shop that says “Visitors Welcome”, Fulfillment and Joy will be liberating. I’ll make sure to send a picture and a big Thank You!. For that day, my Friend, the both of us will be smiling.

  4. It strikes me that the reason for an education system, as we do have one now, is to ensure that the basics are in place – ability to read and write, and do basic maths as starters, then to stretch a little wider to show elements of other subjects such as the sciences, the arts, etc. Most likely showing things that our parents knew only a little about.

    One day in the past the establishment started to promise a better future for all. I was on the verge of staying on at high school to do A levels but decided, for the wrong reasons I would add, to start working instead. The lack of A levels and a degree hasn’t hindered me in my career. I was born before the era of student loans, so I wouldn’t have racked up a five-figure (in £ sterling) debt as many young people today do, but I question the advice that a degree unlocks opportunities.

    To my own children my advice was “go and get a degree if the job you choose requires it” with careers as a doctor, civil engineer, accountant etc in mind. “And if you don’t know what you want to do, start work until you do know what you want to concentrate on.”

    Vocational occupations were largely abandoned in pursuit of further education and more money, power, things. The richness of job satisfaction was overlooked, or deprioritised, until the individuals realised their need of “something more.”

    It’s good that young people are asking…

  5. Mike Ballinger

    Ken, I kind of agree with you that to pursue your truth/hobby is the way forward but unfortunately while I tried to do that it didn’t work for me. Why not? Well I love drawing, art, creativity and to turn that into a livelihood I had two routes in front of me to choose. One was fine art, the other graphic design. I was told that graphic design is art that pays you (because jobs that make companies money get paid more). Problem is that the money, clients and their business needs often over shadow the creativity and artistic element. It can actually be quite soul destroying if you don’t learn to cope with it. I Think there is merit in keeping your hobbies as hobbies so it doesn’t ruin the pure joy you get from it. Not saying it’s impossible to merge the two worlds though.

  6. scott olmstead

    So true!! I think you could probably replace the term apprenticeship with the term mentorship and it would still fit what you said perfectly.

  7. I had many parents approach me several years ago asking if I could take their kids as apprentices in my shop. I called my lawyer and accountant and they both said to call the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (workers comp, etc.)

    Well the lady at Labor and Industries said I could do that but it I would have to pay $17 per hour for workers comp insurance. I told these were apprentices wanting to learn a trade. They would not be contributing to revenue generation for my company. They would learn from the bottom up.

    Well needless to say, I didn’t bring on any apprentices. Instead, I volunteer teach at the local high school woodshop. A real bummer that government GETS IN THE WAY of people trying to make kids lives better….

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