Tag Archives: trends

Apprenticeship/Journeyman Ratio

Tim Hudak of Ontario is the latest Conservative politician to jump on the apprenticeship is good bandwagon.  Just recently Jason Kenney flies to Germany with a delegation of businessmen to study their world class apprenticeship system.   Even Jim Flaherty as Finance Minister got in on the act before he died.

I know this because I have been lucky enough to have worked with some German trained journeymen.   I learned some valuable tips of the trade that I pass on to the apprentices and young journeypersons who will listen so they are not all lost.  Why reinvent the wheel?   it just keeps coming out round.

In medievial  times  journeymen(French journée) was just a stage between apprenticeship and master craftsman.  Journeymen and their families would travel from master craftsman to master craftsman to learn different aspects and ways of practicing their trade.   The goal was to one day become a master craftsman themselves. (1)

 Working with many  journeypersons is beneficial for an apprentice because they are presented with a variety of ways to produce a product or service and to solve a problem.  It engages their higher level thinking skills as they judge which method is best for them. This is essential for innovation and design.  Journeypersons who work at a variety of different companies gain a catalogue of best practices that they can take with them throughout their working life.  This is why it is called skilled labour.

One of the major problems is that companies look at labour as a cost rather than seeing that a well trained work force is actually an asset.  That is why they cut their investment in training by 40% since 1993. (2).  I have seen too many companies just treating their apprentices as a source of cheap labour.  They keep the apprentices performing one or two tasks and don’t give them the opportunity to explore the full scope of their trade.  At work I would advise apprentices that I heard complaining about the task they were stuck performing to not do  it so good because that is why they were stuck doing it.

This might go back to the very idea of an apprenticeship as being  indentured to another human being.  Just read some of the language in the Revised Statutes of Ontario in 1970 (3) .  I was an electrical apprentice in Ontario in 1968 when the Progressive Conservatives under Premier John Robards ruled and my union employer had a 4 journeypersons to 1 apprentice ration.  It was just the way the system worked, it was fair, it applied equally to everyone.  In 1956 my father agreed to work an extra 6 months as an apprentice in order to keep working rather being a laid off journeyman, it was his choice.

Having a higher ratio means that once you are a journeyperson there would be work for you and you can put your training to good use.   When journeypersons see apprentices as a threat to their livelihood which I have seen happen in the 1/1 ratio system I worked in Alberta.   Journeypersons won’t share their knowledge or model professional behaviour to apprentices on the job because they fear if the apprentice becomes too proficient the higher priced journeyperson is vulnerable to lay off.

A bigger problem we face in Canada which is also a problem in Germany is lack of a coordinated federal apprenticeship education programs. You need a tool like the Ellis chart (7) to figure out all the different criteria.

Ontario in 1978 was still had a Progressive Conservative government but Bill Davis was now premier.  I decided to upgrade my skills and I took a 40 week course to gain entry into the welding trade.  I graduated with two Ontario pipe welding tickets.  Due to a shortage of work  I took my tickets west to Alberta to find that I would have to start at the bottom and challenge my way up.  At work I found they were more interested in my blue print reading skills than my welding so I began steel fabricating.

Another problem we face in Canada is that apprentices are not going through school in a timely fashion.  In my own experience I started steel fabricating in 1980 but it wasn’t until 1988 it became its own trade with its own curriculum and the Progressive Conservative government finally finished Westerra College and it had school space.  I ended up using my 8 years of experience to challenge the exam.  Studies  “showed that accessing any type of technical training greatly increased the probability of completion”. (4)

Studies also show that contrary to what Conservative politicians will tell you that “Bilginsoy (2003) shows that membership in a union is positively related to completion rates.” (5)  So I would suggest to Tim Hudak that he his supply side conservative friends that they fix some of the problems they caused rather than instead of constantly bashing unions.   Here in BC the government is busy rebuilding the apprenticeship system they let go a decade ago in order to boost apprenticeship completion rates and meet the demand for skilled trades people.  (6)

As I mentioned earlier corporations and their conservative friends see labour as a cost that must be kept down at all costs.   The funny thing is that one of the things that leads to the success of the German apprenticeship system that they admire is the German industrial system of union/management cooperation (7)

We need an apprenticeship system that allows our apprentices to develop their higher order thinking and problem solving skills in order to be considered truly skilled labour.

New Scoops – May 3, 2014

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Chalkup: Social Learning Platform, Simple Learning Management.

Jumpstarting Edtech Innovation in Germany (EdSurge News)

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

 

Employers Needed

As a graduate of the Durham College welding program I found this article interesting as it spoke to something that I have witnessed over the span of my working life, the looming shortage of trades people.  One of the big problems that we have in Canada is a lack of on the job training that an apprenticeship program requires.  The Conference Board of Canada in 2011 found that spending for on-the-job training had dropped 40% since peaking in 1993.  This despite the fact that a study by the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum found that employers received $1.47 for every $1.00 spent on training.

The new federal government program of Apprenticeship grants and  will only work if employers get on board and hire more apprentices.   To this end the government is working with the provinces to bring in the Canada Job Grant program.  This program will provide $15,000 per person so Canadians can access the training they will need to get jobs in the high-demand fields.  It is hoped that this will encourage Canadian businesses to take on and train more apprentices.

Some employers are trying to get around the skilled labour shortage by bringing in foreign trained workers through the Temporary Foreign Worker program.  This despite an unemployment rate of 13.9% among youths 15  to 24 in January 2014, almost 400,000 young Canadians.  If they are truly concerned about the future employers should be looking to partner with government and educational institutes to train and create opportunities for these young people.

As more and more baby boomers retire from the skilled trades we will need more and more young people to step in and take over.  Apprenticeship is one of the most important mechanisms we have to ensure that we will have a skilled workforce in the future.

Canada-Fed-Skilled-Worker1-300x251

Facebook and Higher Edcuation

Social networking sites have become a major part of young people’s lives.  Many professors are angered when students will check their Facebook feeds while attending class while others are embracing the technology and incorporating it into their teaching.  They posit that the interactive nature of Facebook allows students to collaborate and share information.  While many studies have done on the effectiveness of using Facebook in education, the conclusions vary.

In his 2009 paper Neil Selwyn found that students use Facebook to:

(1) recounting and reflecting on the university experience

(2) exchange of practical information

(3) exchange of academic information

(4) displays of supplication and/or disengagement

(5) ‘banter’ (i.e. exchanges of humour and nonsense) (Selwyn, N. 2009. p.161)

He found that students saw Facebook as being part of ‘their’ internet and resented its appropriation by the hierarchal university and suggested that his data showed that Facebook as a “backstage space” that augmented their university education.

One way that Facebook has found to be effective is when it uses Facebook pages to form online study groups.  An example of this is the School of Instructor Education Facebook page allows students to share information that they have found on the internet.  This allows students to access a portal that has much relevant information to their studies rather than tedious searches through a search engine.

Dr. Nisha Malhotra at the University of British Columbia uses Facebook groups to answer student questions, post relevant articles and engender online discussions.  Dr Leah Donlan in her 2012 paper concludes that students are happy using Facebook for academic purposes when it is on their terms as they wish to keep their private and academic lives separate.  This suggests to me that any teacher that wishes to use Facebook in their courses might want to have the students collaborate in designing and defining the Facebook group and how it is to be used.

The use of Facebook and other social media in a formal institutional environment is still in its infancy and much study still needs to be done to assess their effectiveness.  Searching the anecdotal information available one finds many successes and failures, but we have to realize that Facebook is a vital part of student’s lives and it is where they spend much of their time.  As Susan Erdman writes “Perhaps the bruising immediacy and startling intimacy of Facebook will indeed offer a way out of the ritualized

Donlan, L. (2012). Exploring the views of students on the use of Facebook in university teaching and learning. Journal of Further and Higher Education, (ahead-of-print), 1-17.

Erdmann, S. (2013). Facebook Goes to College; Recent Research on Educational Uses of Social Networks. Nordic Journal of Modern Language Methodology2(1).

Selwyn, Neil. “Faceworking: exploring students’ education‐related use of Facebook.” Learning, Media and Technology 34.2 (2009): 157-174.

Selwyn, N. (2012). Social media in higher education. The Europa World of Learning 2012.

universities_facebook

Education Is a Self Organizing System

In 2010 Dr. Sugata Mitra dazzled the audience at TED with his talk about his experiments using computers to educate impoverished children in India.  Embedding a computer in a wall the children were able to teach themselves how to use it.  Now with Newcastle University he has designed ever more complicated experiments to push the boundaries of his theory.   No he is attempting to prove the hypothesis that “Education is a self organizing system, where learning is an emergent phenomenon…”

This year at TED Dr. Mitra tells us that schools are obsolete and describes  Self Organized Learning Environments (SOLE) and makes an appeal for his School in the Cloud.

 

Academica

Latest Top 10 news items about higher education in Canada from academica.   I was really interested in the story from Calgary about DeVry Institute of Technology shutting their campus and going online.  It seems to me anything to do with technology should have some hands on modeling involved in the learning process.  The importance is to instill in our learners the confidence to take on ever more challenges.

Anyway you can check out academica for yourself.

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