e-apprenticeship

Thanks to Allen Beliveau from my PIDP 3240 course  for posting the paper by Bradley D. Hartwig from SFU Faculty of Education “e-Apprenticeship: Establishing Viability of Modern Technology in Traditional Practice”.  Published in 2007 the paper looked at the views of apprentices towards learning their trade online rather than at a traditional vocational institution.  It also looked at the history of the BC apprenticeship system and apprenticeships in general.

One of the problems of the present system is that many apprentices must travel to attend school.  This entails added expenses at the same time you are not working and earning a wage.  In some cases EI will pay you but this is still a reduction in income.  In an e-apprenticeship the apprentice would learn their theory online while doing their practical work in their workplace.  Since there is a 30% non-completion rate for BC apprentices it is simple economics to remove any barriers we can to make sure apprentices successfully become journeypersons.

One disadvantage of this approach is that many employers look upon apprentices as a source of cheap labour.  Many can spend their whole apprenticeship doing a limited variety of the trade related tasks.  Government and institutions would have to spend a large amount of money to develop a comprehensive curriculum and the learning tools to support it.  There would have to be follow up process to make sure that the apprentice was getting the proper coaching and mentoring that similar institutional classes provide.  One advantage of this system is I have heard apprentices returning from school complain about how school failed to replicate the real world conditions of the work place.

Another advantage of an e-apprenticeship is that you can quickly incorporate new technologies and procedures into the curriculum.  In this day and age change is occurring at an ever increasing rate.  A disadvantage of an e-apprenticeship system is that many small and medium sized businesses can not give their apprentices the wild range of training that the curriculum might require.  The government and training institutions would have to insure equality of opportunity for all apprentices right across the province.

The amount of labour and coaching required by online learners is another disadvantage of online learning.  According to Palloff and Pratt (1999) an online course would take 18 hours of instructor time compared to 6.5 to 7.5 hours for a face-to-face lecture course.  There would also be a learning curve in both learner and instructor learning as to how to best utilize the software and learning modules.  This would also require an IT support team as students and instructors ran into computer problems.

One advantage of having the employer take responsibility for the practical training of an apprentice is that it involves them to take more of an interest and ownership over the development of their apprentices.  Journeypersons would have to take on a more meaningful mentorship role.  However one of the main concerns of the apprentices surveyed was that they would miss the camaraderie and connections they get in a classroom.  Also they said they would miss the peer to peer learning and teaching that takes place.  This could be overcome by having gatherings of local apprentices from various trades coming together to learn material common to all trades.  This would also get apprentices out of their trade silos and get new perspectives.

Returning to in-house training of apprentices hearkens back to the days of the medieval guilds.  In some ways going forward is going backwards, but it must be done carefully at this time and involve all stakeholders.  The paper talked about some pilot projects that were using e-apprenticeship and I believe this is the way to proceed.  Since the BC government is investing over $30 million in a new Trades Education facility at Camosun College, e-apprenticeship isn’t on the top of their agenda.

How do you teach this type of welding

Journeyperson Mentorship Program

Journeyperson Mentorship Program

In Newfoundland/Labrador the Department of Advanced Education and Skills has a Journeyperson Mentorship Program that provides funds to eligible employers to hire a journeyperson to mentor an apprentice to allow their apprentices to get the training and hours to complete their apprenticeship.

Journeypersons in provincially recognized trades, that require 4500 hours or more of combined school and work hours are eligible to be mentors.  An employer can choose a person who is currently employed in their field or is retired from their field who has at least five years experience.

This program is open to private employers particularly small and medium sized businesses in the profit or non-profit sector who “Have the capacity to employ a minimum of three apprentices and pay all associated employment expenses from own resources.”  They must also have an office location base in the province and be able to provide a minimum of six months work in the trade.

Apprentices must be registered with the provincial apprenticeship program or be eligible to register.  Journeyperson/mentors must have a “Certificate of Qualification” in a NL designated trade along with a minimum of five years experience with a minimum of two years employment as a journeyperson in the trade in the last ten years.

This is a great idea for the employers because it compensates companies that train apprentices by allowing them to hire skilled journeypersons to mentor and train them, building a productive team of employees.  It is good for journeypersons because it encourages them to take a more active role in training and mentoring apprentices.  It reaches out to our retired journeypersons and allows them to share their knowledge acquired over years of work in the field.  Finally for apprentices they get the training, mentoring and hours so they can successfully complete their trade and maybe one day become mentors themselves.

Advance Education and Skills

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BC and Adult Education

BC faces a looming crisis.  In their submission the Select Standing Committee on Finance in 2013 BC Colleges stated that 78% of the job openings will require some form of post-secondary education while currently only 60% of the population has that level of education.  This they describe as a skills gap.

Recognizing this the BC government has proposed new funding to address the skills gap that the province faces.  Yet faced with budget shortfalls local school boards are cutting programs that are viewed as being outside their core mandate of providing basic kindergarden to Grade 12 education.  Recently the Vancouver School Board closed the adult education centre in the city’s west end and in Salmon Arm the local school board axed their continuing education program.

This seems like a contradiction to me and it suggests that maybe now is the time to reorganize our education system.  Governments have to start looking at education funding as an investment rather than a cost.  BC Colleges claim that they return $3.80 for every $1 of taxpayer financial they get.  One major problem that we face is that government is having to use their meagre resources to substitute for the lack of investment in training by the business community.

imgres Maybe it is time for the provincial government to either take the responsibility for adult and continuing education away from local school boards or adequately fund these programs on top of the grants that school boards already receive.   Perhaps this could be done in coordination with the BC Jobs Plan and the government of Canada’s Economic Action Plan to make sure that the training matches the needed skills.  In Canada the senior levels of government have more funding resources than the locally funded school boards.  It is their responsibility to make sure that valuable continuing education courses are available and that BC citizens can continue to be life long learners.