Apprenticeship program duties became significantly more challenging under limitations from the COVID-19 pandemic. Speakers Thomas Fischer, Jennifer E. Germaine, Esq., and Thomas E. Pfundstein, Ph.D., addressed these challenges in a recent International Foundation webcast titled Apprenticeship Program Challenges During COVID-19. The webcast addressed these unique challenges as well as changes made, program survival strategies, technical considerations, instructor techniques, legal and equity considerations, and notes for the eventual reopening of training centers. Below are some webcast takeaways for apprenticeship program instructors, directors and coordinators.
Stakeholders immediately recognized the need to continue apprenticeship instruction after training centers shut down. Some key first steps included:
- Meeting online with program instructors to determine best practices
- Ensuring that current technological capabilities would suffice under expanded use
- Determining which classes were better suited for live training and which could be delivered online
- Getting approval from government and industry regulating bodies to deliver instruction under new, electronic methods.
The rapid implementation of new processes gave programs a true test of their survival skills. Some of the lessons learned include the following.
- Some programs were able to accelerate the speed of their online learning components, allowing programs to focus more time on the hands-on portion of training.
- Program staff determined which practices are viable only in the short-term, while also implementing some permanently into standard practices.
- Stakeholders were able to assess their staff in a time of crisis in a high-pressure environment. This became a great test of who will meet challenges going forward.
- Some presenters were wary about hybrid online/face-to-face learning strategies. However, many apprentices used these strategies in recent high school courses. This new method more closely aligned to apprentice leaning styles.
- In a new virtual environment, instructors realized the increasing importance of face-to-face feedback through live video components.
In this new environment, innovative technological considerations are necessary. Here are some techniques that programs are using to deal with this new reality.
- Stakeholders evaluate their need and, if applicable, create/enhance their learning management systems
- Programs are increasingly using and Skype and Zoom. Instructors and apprentices are comfortable with these platforms as their primary communication method with family members. Programs are also posting training videos on YouTube.
- Programs are also exploring the use of mobile apps to ensure that apprentices are in attendance and engaged. In addition, some are using designated staff monitors to ensure attendance and engagement while establishing a clear list of expectations for online learning environments
New realities have forced instructors to modify their instruction styles. Below are some valuable tips for this new environment.
- In select programs, apprentices are completing their final presentations through electronic methods. Instructors need to be versed in technical support, which may entail a drastic shift in responsibility.
- Another program hosted software-specific (Zoom, Skype, Google Hangout) training for instructors and apprentices, placing an emphasis on supplementing instruction through technology.
- Before meetings, instructors are conducting “walk-throughs” to ensure a more seamless experience for apprentices.
- Instructors found success by limiting instruction time to two to three hours per session to ensure engagement and participation.
- One of the speakers hosts an “instructor lounge” for instructors to relay resources and best practices.
Legal Issues of Remote Instruction
Distance learning strategies have necessitated a host of new legal considerations. Below are some potential legal obstacles, with corresponding action steps.
Legal Framework to Consider: Federal Registered Apprenticeship Standards (29 U.S.C. Sec. 50), state requirements and specific program standards
- Review program standards
- Develop remote instruction that builds off existing standards
- Amend program standards and apprenticeship policies
- Consider apprentice identity verification
- Educate instructors on requirements
- Scrutinize remote instruction products before purchasing
Legal Framework to Consider: Copyright Act of 1976 and Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act of 2002
- Understand best practices
- Educate instructors
- Create copyright policy with apprentices
- Link directly to material
- Only use necessary portions of material
- Limit access
- Inform apprentices and instructors of policy
Apprentice Data Privacy
Legal Framework to Consider: Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (Protects directory information, personally identifiable information)
- Review current tech contracts
- Review proposed tech contracts diligently—Ensure program owns data
- Consult legal counsel
- Inform apprentices of privacy protections
Legal Framework to Consider: Americans with Disabilities Act
- Anticipate potential accommodations—Consider implementing remote instruction
- Create process for apprentices to request accommodations
- Educate instructors on viable accommodations
- Discuss tools with tech providers to provide accommodations
Remote instruction in the apprenticeship training environment has raised a new round of potential equity concerns. Presenters gave a few examples of methods to address potential inequity.
- Apprentices may not all have access to laptops or tablets for training. Consider a loaner program where apprentices can borrow these devices for training. Going further, examine making courses smartphone friendly.
- In addition, not all apprentices may have a distraction-free area at home to complete coursework. Consider opening isolated areas at your training center to apprentices at socially distanced spacing.
- Similarly, not all apprentices may be available at standard nine-to-five classroom times. Consider offering classes at alternate times to accommodate different types of learners and varying schedules.
[Upcoming Webcast: Supporting Employees With Social Isolation and Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) | July 15, 2020]
Next Steps: Training Centers Reopening
The next step of the COVID-19 time line is the potential reopening of training centers. Speakers provided several considerations for this new reality, including the following.
- Check state and local guidance to determine whether your training center is operating as an essential business. Different rules and regulations will apply.
- Conduct a thorough evaluation of all training center common areas. What is the capacity of your cafeteria? Will you allow apprentices to bring outside food? Does your training center have a shower area for apprentices? Will these be operational?
- If possible, consider a condensed on-site training schedule (e.g., two days on, three days off) to allow for thorough cleaning and to reduce the spread among apprentices.
- Consider creating COVID-19 specific “welcome back” resources for apprentices returning to the training center.
Tune in to the on-demand webcast Apprenticeship Program Challenges During COVID-19 to learn more.
Justin Held, CEBS
Senior Research Analyst at the International Foundation
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