Online Apprenticeship

Introduction

In Canada, becoming a Red Seal Journeymen in the Trades has been traditionally taught through a face-to-face method, known as apprenticeship training.

Apprenticeship has been used for centuries to teach people about a particular trade by someone who has the experience and has mastered their craft. Apprentice training in this manner, has always been thought of the only education learning method. Though, educational institutions have begun to develop online apprenticeship training.

I work for the Prince George Nechako Aboriginal Employment and Training Association (PGNAETA) located in northern central British Columbia and our organization is going to offer, for the first time, online apprenticeship training. We have secured Thompson Rivers University to delivery their “Parts and Warehousing Foundations Level 1”.

As the coordinator of this program, I am tasked with merging the online apprenticeship training with our in-class program that will support the students.

In this paper, I will explain the process and implications of offering online apprenticeship training and the pedagogy methods we will be using.

Red Seal Journeyperson

People who would like to enter a trade as an apprentice follow a prescribed path by their provincial training authority. In British Columbia, the trades are administered through Industry Training Authority (ITA).

“The Industry Training Authority (ITA) is responsible for leading and coordinating the skilled trades training and credentialing system for the province. ITA provides strategic leadership, policy support and customer services to help apprentices, employers and industry. ITA sets program standards, maintains credential records and issues the highly regarded Interprovincial Red Seal and B.C. Certificate of Qualifications (C of Q) credentials”(“Our Trades Training System | Industry Training Authority,” n.d.)

Currently, there are 100 trades available in BC, over 50 are Red Seal trades that qualify you to work anywhere in Canada.

A perspective student who wants to be an apprentice will need to be sponsored by an employer and register with ITA. Once the student has accumulated a certain number of workplace hours, they may apply to an education institution to do there level 1. Depending on the trade that they are in, they may need to complete 3 to 4 levels before there Red Seal Certification. All level have examinations and they need to pass with a minimum grade.

Parts and Warehousing

I was asked to do Labour Market Research pertaining to the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Industry within the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George, early in 2015.

The research lead me to the website of the Pacific Northwest LNG who conducted a survey – “Jobs, Training and Education Survey Results”. They list “…top five in demand job types during both and construction and operations” (LNG, 2015). In the column under operations, they listed Warehousing and Shipping. As I was not familiar with the training involved, I thought it would be the area to do further research on.

I started to search out training institutions that provided courses or programs that pertains to warehousing and shipping. I was surprised to find that you were able to obtain a Red Seal as a Partsperson and Warehousing.

Currently there are only two universities in BC that offer the Partsperson and Warehousing  program: Thompson Rivers University (TRU), Kamloops BC and Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Cloverdale BC. The difference between the courses is the delivery method. TRU only deliveries the Partsperson and Warehousing through an online delivery method, which is offered in three levels with a duration of six weeks for each level.

In short, we went with TRU’s online delivery for the Partsperson and Warehousing , though it should be noted that PGNAETA’S management did not want a purely online program delivered. There was still apprehension that a trades program could not be delivered online. It was decided that the online apprenticeship training be integrated into a structured classroom course.

Online Apprenticeship

The Online Apprenticeship Training is relatively new in Canada and British Columbia (BC). The BC government piloted a project called E-Prentice that was developed through ITA in 2009, but was discontinued after only year in 2010.  The E-Prentice had two successful programs a Cook Program and Automotive Collision Program (Bates, 2011).  Only one reason was given for the discontinuing the E-Prentice program. “The rationale put forward by one Board member was that the private sector could offer the training at less cost. However, to date no private sector online apprentice training has been implemented within the province…”(Bates, 2011).

Given the short lived Online Apprenticeship program it would seem that such a delivery method would not be a feasible option.

The contrary would be true as Tony Bates adds:

“The apprenticeship model of teaching can work in both face-to-face and online contexts, but if there is an online component, it usually works best in a hybrid format… Nevertheless, the apprenticeship model, when applied thoroughly and systematically, is a very useful model for teaching in highly complex, real-world contexts.” (Bates, 2014).

As we move ahead with the Online Apprenticeship training, we wanted to ensure success by implementing sound pedagogy strategies.

Pedagogy

When we decided to offer the course, I needed to implement a pedagogical strategy that will fit both an online delivery model but delivery in classroom. This had different implications because we have a course that is already designed and developed for online learning which self-paced for the student.

The issue I was faced going with online apprenticeship training was (1) we never offered on before, and (2) how will we integrate our supports to the students during their study.

The pedagogical approach best suited for this program will be Student Centered Instruction (SCI).

“Student-centered instruction [SCI] is an instructional approach in which students influence the content, activities, materials, and pace of learning. This learning model places the student (learner) in the center of the learning process. The instructor provides students with opportunities to learn independently and from one another and coaches them in the skills they need to do so effectively. The SCI approach includes such techniques as substituting active learning experiences for lectures, assigning open-ended problems and problems requiring critical or creative thinking that cannot be solved by following text examples, involving students in simulations and role plays, and using self-paced and/or cooperative (team-based) learning. Properly implemented SCI can lead to increased motivation to learn, greater retention of knowledge, deeper understanding, and more positive attitudes towards the subject being taught” (as cited in Froyd & Simpson, 2000)

The SCI approach allows us to work with the online delivery, the instructor and most importantly the students.

The first implication that was addressed in implementing SCI was the Partsperson and Warehousing course was designed for the students to do modules at a self-pace.  Self-paced is described as “…instruction is constructed in such a way that the learner proceeds from one topic or segment to the next at his/her own speed”(“Self-paced instruction – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,” n.d.) In this context, students will start a module, read assigned texts, complete tasks such as, answer questions about the readings; do multiple choice questions to enhance concepts; and/or small examinations at the end of the modules -which is not graded only a completion is recorded. The whole course is designed to for the student to learn concepts, definitions, terms and critical analysis for the final examination at the end of the course.

Since we are implementing the online course into a classroom, we have a student timetable that all students will follow each day/week. The modules in the Partsperson and Warehousing will be at fixed time each day and all students will participate as a class. This approach will allow the students to assist each other if needed. Any concepts that students need clarification can be done as class or by other students. This approach “…content delivery allow students the opportunity to control their learning since they require students to take responsibility for their learning by being actively involved in the learning process…” (Wright, 2011).

One issue described in Victor Callen, How Organisations are Using E-learning to Support National Training Initiatives, adds:

“As the learner is more empowered, it is argued in numerous studies that the teacher or trainer will be more disempowered in these connected environments. There are concerns among teachers and trainers that they will become more isolated from the learning process in self-paced e-learning modes than in the face-to-face classroom. They are also concerned that their teaching skills will decline.

There are well reported costs in time regarding e-learning. For example, instructors underestimate the time required to respond to the number of student communications and the time required to learn new technologies” (Callen, 2009).

To address this issue, we are implementing weekly video-conference with the instructor, so students can go over concepts, the next week modules or ask questions pertaining to the course material. These weekly video session allows the student a connection to the instructor and the instructor to maintain regular communication with students.

There might also be apprehension from the student about learning a trade online.

John Meredith’s, Tools for the Jobs: A survey-based discussion paper on e-learning for the apprenticeship in Saskatchewan, includes:

“However, the strongest opinions on online learning are clearly negative. Fewer than one-quarter of survey respondents are in favour of receiving a part of their technical training on line, and well over half are somewhat or strongly opposed. These views relate to the impact that apprentices imagine a new approach would have on the learning supports that most of them regard as the core of their technical training. The first is face-to-face interaction with an instructor. Ninety percent of respondents regard the loss of instructor contact as a disadvantage to online learning, and half the population anticipates that this loss would be the most important consequence of a shift to online delivery” (Meredith, John, 2009).

As stated in the above, we have implanted connections to the instructor and students will be in a classroom.

PGNAETA has their own courses that we implement with all programs or as stand-alone courses. We provide Essentials Skills training that complements students learning. Our essentials skills program focuses on nine essentials that are needed in the workplace:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Document use
  • Numeracy
  • Computer Use
  • Thinking
  • Oral Communication
  • Working with Others
  • Continuous Learning

I have not provided an in depth review of the nine Essentials Skills, as it is beyond the scope of the paper. Though our Essentials Skills training build foundation skills need not only as a student but also in the workplace. As John Meredith adds,

Foundation skills

  • Recognize that basic literacy and numeracy skills are essential to apprentices’ success, both for conventional in-class technical training and e-learning. Better assessment and support for basic math and literacy skills may be a key strategy for improving apprentice completion rates and program efficiency.
  • Make a priority of understanding how literacy/numeracy issues currently affect SIAST apprenticeship programs. Determine how basic math and literacy skills affect student success, instructor workload, and the use of teaching time and resources.
  • Consider integrating foundation-skills assessment and support into apprenticeship programs.
  • Use e-learning tools to help apprentices build their basic reading and math skills in preparation for in-class training and testing (Meredith, John, 2009).

We hope that students in the program will have developed online learning skills for the future. These skill will help the students that continue on the path to becoming Red Seal Certification in Partsperson and Warehousing andcomplete the remainder of the program with TRU online.

Finally, as the program progresses, we need to continually monitor and evaluate the progress of the students and the program. Allan Roper, How Students Develop Online Learning Skills, reminds us,

“No magical formula guarantees success in online learning. One important step for instructors teaching an online course is to recognize that a different set of student skills may be required for students to get good grades (indicating that they have achieved the desired understanding of the subject) and to get the most from an online course. The techniques identified by successful online students can promote a rich learning experience for other students and provide a foundation for them to develop these skills. Instructors can help them get there” (Roper, 2007).

Conclusion

In this paper, I have discussed the process of PGNAETA delivering an Online Apprentice program and what pedagogy strategy will be used. The main issue was blending the online course into a classroom setting. The use of a student-centered approach, as stated in the above, will allow PGNAETA to empower the student to be the responsible their learning, but not be isolated with no support.  Also, students in the Partsperson and Warehousing will continueon to their Red Seal Certification through the online delivery if they continue with TRU.

Even if students do not continue on to obtain their Red Seal Certification, they will have learned how to be an online student.

Reference List

Bates, T. (2011). Beyond the campus: hope, trades training and skulduggery | Tony Bates. Retrieved June 15, 2015, from http://www.tonybates.ca/2011/05/09/beyond-the-campus-hope-trades-training-and-skulduggery/

Bates, T. (2014). Models for teaching by doing (labs, apprenticeship, etc.) | Tony Bates. Retrieved June 15, 2015, from http://www.tonybates.ca/2014/08/06/models-for-teaching-by-doing-labs-apprenticeship-etc/

Callen, V. (University of Q. B. S. (2009). How organisations are using e-learning to support national training initiatives. Retrieved from flexiblelearning.net.au

Froyd, J., & Simpson, N. (2000). Student-Centered Learning Addressing Faculty Questions about Student- centered Learning What is meant by Student-centered Learning ( SCL )? Science Education, (1997).

LNG, P. N. (2015). Jobs, Training and Education Survey Results. Retrieved from http://pacificnorthwestlng.com/wp-content/uploads/PNW_fs-Training-Education.pdf

Meredith, John, P. . (2009). Tools for the Job: A survey-‐based discussion paper on e-‐learning for apprenticeship in Saskatchewan. SIAST and the Saskatchewan Apprenticeship and Trades Certification Commission. doi:10.1136/bmj.2.5529.1596-b

Our Trades Training System | Industry Training Authority. (n.d.). Retrieved June 24, 2015, from http://www.itabc.ca/overview/our-trades-training-system

Roper, A. (2007). How students develop online learning skills. Educause Quarterly, (1), 62–65. Retrieved from https://www.educause.edu/library/eqm07110

Self-paced instruction – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (n.d.). Retrieved July 21, 2015, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-paced_instruction

Wright, G. B. (2011). Student-Centered Learning in Higher Education. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 23(3), 93 – 94.

 



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