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Online learning takes apprenticeships to the next level

Posted on August 30, 2018

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Did you know that formal apprenticeships have been around for centuries? In the Middle Ages, an apprentice would even live in a master craftsman’s household for seven years before setting out on their own.

Today, thanks to industry standards and educational programs, the life of an apprentice isn’t much different than that of any other worker. With Vancouver Community College’s (VCC) online learning programs, apprenticeship training is also now more efficient than ever.

Automotive collision repair instructor Robin Popow is a pioneer of online trades training at VCC, having launched his first online curriculum in 2004. “There wasn’t even broadband internet across B.C. back then,” he says.

Over the years, these efforts have resulted in an online, video-enhanced curriculum for automotive collision repair Level 1 which is currently being used in high schools outside Vancouver as part of the Industry Training Authority’s (ITA) Youth Train in Trades program.

In February 2018, VCC launched a similar option for Level 2 apprentices currently working in shops across the province. While Level 2 apprentices normally spend five weeks in class, VCC’s new Flexible Learning program was delivered online for 20 weeks followed by one final week at VCC (soon to be two weeks).

‌‌‌The main benefit for both apprentices and employers participating in this program is maximizing time spent on the job. “Vancouver is just so expensive,” says Robin. “It’s travel, lodging, and loss of work, too. One of my students is a single dad. There’s no way he can take five weeks off.”

Another apprentice, Kaleb Hennicke, completed the Flexible Learning program in June 2018, spending the majority of his time on the job at Carstar/TC Valley Collision in Courtenay B.C. “I worked all day and got paid,” says Kaleb. “It was great. Everyone I worked with wanted to help me learn.”

While students are located in shops across the province, they still connect regularly online, not only with the instructor but also with each other. They keep journals, upload pictures and videos, and comment on each other’s work. “Two of the guys were from shops in my own town,” says Kaleb. “I got to know them and see where they worked.”

At 82 per cent, the Flexible Learning class average held up well against ITA’s provincial standard, and VCC now plans to offer the program annually.

According to Robin, online learning technology benefits on-campus classes too, with all students now doing quizzes on their smartphones and accessing course content on through screens right on the shop floor. “We’ve come a long way since 2004,” he says.

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Considering a career in auto trades? Drop in at one of our regular, free information sessions or RSVP now for our upcoming open house, Experience VCC, on Oct. 24.