Can someone explain to me why tradesmen (in particular - though the phenomenon is probably not limited to them), feel that it is absolutely necessary to demonise and bully the apprentices under their control?
Please don't tell me that it's just the way it is, that it "builds character" and allows young people to learn confict resolution skills. 'Cos that's just bullshit! It shouldn't be, it doesn't and it absolutely doesn't. All it does is drive young people out of trades, and perpetuates a cycle of bullying that should not be allowed to continue.
When I started as an apprentice chef (back in the dark ages), I was bullied mercilessly by the 4th year I was hired to ultimately replace (once he qualified and became unaffordable). His rationale (and he was quite open about it), was that he had been treated like shit, now he had the power, and he was going to make me every bit as miserable as he had been. WTF? First I took up smoking to relieve the stress (yes I was young and stupid - as apprentices are wont to be), then left altogether, never completing my apprenticeship. There were additional reasons for my chucking it in, but the culture of bullying was the predominant one. 30 years down the track, not only is this still going on, but it appears to be considered perfectly acceptable.
Admittedly my first hand knowledge is centred on hospitality and in particular chefs. I don't doubt that there is a similar problem in other trades and industries, just as I don't doubt that there are qualified tradies whose aim is to actually get the best from their apprentices without these ridiculous tactics. Sadly, I think that most chefs will employ these hard-arsed tactics. It's unnecessary and given the already difficult nature of the industry (unsociable hours, crap pay, etc,), completely unacceptable.
Only what the hell do you do about it? Apprentices don't have a union. The private apprenticeship mob who looks after The Brat (yeah in case you hadn't guessed , this is about The Brat), will always take the side of the employer - because without the employer they don't make any money. As a parent, I feel infuriated and helpless. How do I deal with this? How do I cope with my kid being miserable in a job, when he really likes the actual work and is potentially good enough to reach the top of his field.
I have employed the usual platitudes - "Don't let it get to you", "It's wrong, but that's the way this industry is and you have to learn to live by their screwed up rules", " You'll be qualified in 15 months, keep your head down, don't give them an excuse, you'll get through it". It's all crap! He shouldn't have to put up with it. I have brought him up to stand up for himself against bullies, and now as he becomes a young man, I tell him to throw his upbringing out the window, and just shut up and take it! Again WTF?
The Brat is a good kid. He's clever, he's funny, he has impeccable manners (when the situation warrants it), and he will do anything for anyone. He's also quick tempered, a bit (okay a lot) of a smartarse, sometimes drinks too much, and sometimes gets aggressive, (not related to drinking too much, and he is not prone to violence against other people - only walls and windows and the like). When a chef tells him that he wants to punch him in the face, he responds with "so fuckin do it fuckhead". This leads to a written warning for unprofessionalism and lack of respect for senior staff. WTF? Do you respect anyone who threatens to punch you in the face? Why does the chef who makes the threat (and make no mistake this is a threat) have no consequences. What do any of them hope to achieve? It's not going to make him a better Chef, it won't improve his cooking skills, or teach him how to handle staff, or how to order and maintain stock, or any of the myriad other skills he will need to become a professional in his chosen field. So what's the fucking point?
More importantly..... how do we deal with it? The Brat is 18, a year ago I had the power to intervene because he was a minor (I didn't until the situation became dangerous, by the way!). Now unless specifically invited by one or more of the parties involved, I have to keep my nose out of it. I don't want to fight The Brats battles for him anyway, as I said I have brought him up to stand up for himself (without violence). Kinda makes me think it's my fault really, if I hadn't, he might be more inclined to just take the crap that's dished out, which by the way wouldn't reduce the bullying, but might lessen the consequences of "answering back". FFS he's not a 5 year old being told to clean his room and giving Mum a mouthful of cheek. He's a young adult, trying to learn a trade and make an honest living, and learn how to get on in the world. A world full of contradictions and confusion.
Here's a scenario:
The Brat works 10 am to 10 pm (ish). He gets a 2 - 3 hour break if he's lucky. During that time he goes to the pub, and has a couple of drinks. Later that day he injures himself badly with a knife. Emergency room staff stitching him up smell alcohol, and report it, thus voiding any possible workcover claim, and losing him his job. He's fucked! But he doesn't understand why, because on his first day in the job, Chef took him to the pub and bought him drinks! And that's not the only time either. How do you convince this young man that this is how it's going to play out. Surely if that was the case, Chef would never have taken him to the pub, thus implying that it was okay to have a few drinks during the working day, then go back to work and play with knives and fire and potentially explodey things. Guess what? Chef will deny all, point to the line on The Brat's contract that forbids alcohol consumption, and escape any consequences. The Brat is Fucked.
Chefs and other tradies/bosses or anyone responsible for teaching a young person, need to take responsibility. Chef, this is my kids life you are screwing with. YOU spend more time with him than I do. Treating him like shit is not going to build his character. It's going to make him angry, and resentful. A handy coping mechanism will be alcohol (mine was nicotine), I already see it.... after a particularly shitty day, he feels like he needs to drink to drown it out. That's fucking scary folks! It's also NOT a behaviour he learned in the home, just in case you believe those government sponsored advertisements that would have you believe that your drinking habits are the reason your child/ren will be problem drinkers. (If that theory held water, The Brat would be a smoker, and would have a drink maybe once or twice a year on special occasions).
Help me out here folks, I'd be particularly interested in hearing the other side of the story if anyone's keen.