Removing the Journeyman Club Mentality

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Over my years I’ve seen, and experienced, the Journeyman vs. Apprentice mentality.

It’s a really sad situation, to be honest.

Being an apprentice is truly a rough road, especially when already not knowing the ins and outs of the industry.

Yet, you have these higher authority journeymen condescending and degrading apprentices which only discourages them to proceed the trade further, or makes for a sour working environment.

Fortunately in my apprentice years, I felt I was more favored than not. However, from the outside looking in, that allowed me to see some harsh things journeymen have said and done to apprentices they did not like.

But only being an apprentice at the time, my role could only allow me to do so much.

I call this the Journeyman Club Mentality.

There is always talk about the old construction worker mentality, and how that is gone and passed in regards to safety (P.P.E.) and showing your feelings.

But in my opinion, this mentality has only lessened, but still remains.

It’s this sense of power and inclusion to be a part of this accepted group, yet only journeymen and their favorites are allowed in. Many times, turning a blind-eye to what’s right or speaking-up in situations which could easily help that excluded individual excel.

I’ve always hated the greater than thou attitude many journeyman press on apprentices.

But here’s what’s awesome:

I’m now a journeyman.

I can not only stand up for myself, but for my fellow apprentices, too.

And the irony of this on a personal level:

I’ve learnt more from apprentices than journeymen.

(This is because of their questions, mistakes, or actual knowledge they bring to the table.)

I treat apprentices as people, and in return I get respect for not only talking to them like an individual, but for teaching and answering their questions with patience.

These traits truly do go a long way, and gain immense respect.

It’s amazing the knowledge or tip someone has if you just listen.

I’ve worked with some amazing apprentices which have been beaten down from those who are a part of this club and sour environment.

These journeymen a part of the ‘club’ treat apprentices as if they know nothing and are useless. (Harsh words, but believe me, these words and emotions are very true in these construction settings.)

We’ve already had to go through high school and experience this immature behavior from those that were older than us during those years.

If we hated that feeling, why do we let it continue by pushing it onto others in our adulthood?

This Journeyman Club Mentality has to stop.

How do we stop it?

  • Treat others how you’d like to be treated.
  • Realize your role in the workplace and use it to make the workplace an enjoyable environment.
  • Never act like you know everything. (These are some of the most embarrassing moments to learn.)
  • Always look at yourself and your actions.

The popular saying always comes to mind when working with apprentices:

Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime.

Take the time out to explain the process and your apprentice will probably stop asking you repeat questions because you’re not giving them the meat of the subject.

When you become a journeyman, just remember how you were treated.

Break the cycle.

Be the difference.


  • Shuwei Song

    Thank you for this intriguing article. The same kind of cycle occurs at our university. It can be difficult to refrain from using harsh words with students in the name of ‘authority’ as a tutor. I’ve been grappling with this issue for years, but I’ve made significant progress. My goal is to avoid hurting the students’ feelings, as you rightly point out: treat people with respect. I believe I’m on the right track even though I’m not perfect. Being a positive influence requires patience and courage, and I truly hope more people will be inspired.

    • A
      Riley Weller

      Hey thanks for starting a conversation.

      The goal of this post is that everyone is human, and has different interests.

      I learned MANY cool things about life from the various interests apprentice electricians had, or even their questions they had about certain techniques or approaches.

      Many times people follow a certain habit because it’s been told to us, and we just follow the system without asking why.. many times as you get older people don’t ask why.. but apprentices are curious and do ask why. Instead of putting the apprentices’ train of thought as if it were stupid, I’d ask further into what makes them think that way, which they usually have some type of story, such as they were told that at their previous job.. or something they read in a book or saw online.. or maybe something they did at a previous career.

      At the end of the day on a construction site, the end goal of the employer is to get the job done, and that’s understandable.. they’re taking the big risk with their money. But it’s important there’s a balance for questions, education, as well as human interaction, otherwise the jobsite becomes a very dark place where it’s all about money, rushing to get the job done, and pointing the finger at one another with the “blame game”.

      I’ve seen it too many times, and experienced it myself.

      Once reaching my Journeyman years, I always listened to apprentices and answered their questions. Once they know the basics, they want to work harder to be rewarded with more answers.. that was the deal I usually made with them.

      If the apprentice is not getting something, it’s because the person teaching isn’t teaching, they’re TELLING.. there’s a big difference.

  • Ran into this while being a roofer. Nice to see someone recognizing the problem and being part of the solution.

    • A
      Riley Weller

      Hey Ian, yeah it’s a horrible environment. I’ve learnt so many valuable tips from apprentice electricians.. sometimes not even pertaining to electrical itself.. it’s all about listening and then acting accordingly. Thanks for checking out the blog!

      • Juan Gonzalez, a.k.a Mr. G

        I commend your effort to be a catalyst for change regarding the “journeyman club” mentality. I have been preaching your message in NYC for many years and I always stand up for the younger ones.

        I’m 62 and still active in the trade, currently getting myself ready to obtain my JM license in PR, and eventually will return to NYC. Hope to meet you some day.

        • A
          Riley Weller

          Hey Juan! Just sharing what I saw often on the jobsite. I have learned a lot from apprentices.. one apprentice was really into cars and worked at a car shop before becoming an apprentice.. he knew quite a bit about the DC side of things. It’s just about treating people as people, while still understanding we must have respect for those in charge.. but without the condescending or demeaning attitudes..

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