Some of you may know I have an apprentice working with me. His name is Erik Rolf and he’s been around since last October. Erik is a lifelong cyclist and mechanic. I’ve had other apprentices over the years most notably Nic Schmidt (stay tuned for more on Nic) from 2002 to 2005 but will only consider a person when I think they have outstanding potential. I get approached a lot by people that want to work for me and learn to build frames. Of the hundreds I’ve met only a handful impressed me enough to give them a chance. While it may seem like an extra hand around the shop would be nice, having an apprentice actually consumes a ton of my time. I don’t see any real return on my time for at least a year in the best case and I’m training my future competition. For those reasons I’m very careful about when and who I take on if anyone.
There are a couple reasons I take on apprentices at all; first is to give back, I’ve talked about that in other blog entries. There aren’t a lot of avenues for people to learn the craft. Unless new builders have proper guidance they may produce marginal work which can compromise the Framebuilding profession and it will take far longer than necessary to learn to build at a professional level. One of the missions of The Framebuilders Collective (of which I’m a member) is to provide guidance to those wishing to enter the profession.
Some other reasons for taking on an apprentice are a little more selfish. For one I like the energy, and enthusiasm. If you have a good apprentice they can really add to the spirit of the work environment. I’m also reminded how lucky I am to be doing what I do everyday for a living. Another reason is that teaching Framebuilding makes me a better Framebuilder. I think about things in a way I don’t typically think about them. The apprentice may also have great ideas that can be put into practice. Finally, it’s good for business. As I send new builders into the market place they will build their brand giving credit to me as the person that taught them their craft. My association with quality builders to which I taught the craft will strengthen my reputation.
I never turn over the most important Framebuilding jobs and what I do allow him to do are done with strict guidance but so far Erik is a quick study and very talented. If you are interested in learning more about Erik’s experience here he has started a blog which you can visit here: Alliancebicycles.blogspot