Utilizing the Right Tools for Training
The IEC Atlanta Chapter incorporates "The Training Advantage" into all of our apprenticeship classes in order to benefit IEC contractor members, students, partner members, and the electrical industry. We strive for excellence by starting the training process with instructors who are technically competent and trained to deliver the curriculum to adult learners while incorporating hands-on, active learning techniques in each class. This article will focus on how the IEC Atlanta strategic plan works to engage the students of the apprenticeship program to ensure that they learn the core concepts that lead to improved field productivity, reduce errors, and better customer satisfaction for the contractor and student.
The IEC Atlanta Board of Directors set in motion a strategic plan that focused efforts on improving student learning. Our first step was to ensure that we had well trained instructors, that they incorporated multiple ways to deliver the curriculum, and that we leverage the IEC Industry Partner members and their knowledge and resources on a regular basis. Each school year, instructors are required to attend a minimum of 20 hours of training that reviews the needs of adult learners and the multitude of issues that students bring with them to IEC classes. Issues related to family, education levels, and a variety of skill levels all have a direct impact on the way students learn. For instance, students may have family issues that could keep them from meeting their educational goals, so over the years we have invited students to be open about those issues so we can help direct them to resources that may help them overcome those challenges. While education levels vary, IEC Atlanta instituted the requirement for students to maintain perfect attendance throughout the year because there is a direct correlation between student attendance, good grades, and retained concepts.
The chapter always strives to help all students be successful; therefore, we introduced students to the study plan. This plan helps students break down their study time into manageable segments to enhance learning and retention of concepts. Finally, regarding the variance in skill levels, we continue to encourage students to form study groups that include a variety of levels so they can discuss curriculum concepts and develop team skills, while learning from their peers.
We implemented structured lesson planning so instructors would identify various training methods such as hands-on activities, videos, and other demonstrations that really bring each of the daily lessons' subject matter to life for the student. Each instructor is required to turn in the formal lesson plan every week so as we progress through the school year, we build a library of methods that can be utilized by future instructors. Furthermore, as senior instructors return each year, they can refine their lesson plans and perfect how they deliver each lesson to ensure a quality delivery each night.
IEC Industry Partner members have a wealth of knowledge and subject experts that we rely on to help train apprentices on areas such as safety in the field, and specialty devices. For example, many of the apprentices are young and have smartphones that could distract them when they are driving. Realizing this, IEC Atlanta invited local Platinum and IEC National Bronze partner Federated Insurance to deliver their Distracted Driving Program to each apprentice. This helped bring their attention to the importance of focusing on the road while driving, thereby enhancing driving records, educing injury, and potentially saving contractors' money by avoiding accidents, hence leading to reduced insurance claims. Each year, local partner member, Hilti, certifies first and third-year apprentices in powder actuated tools to help them learn how to use the tools safely and properly in the field. Another local and IEC National Platinum Partner, Thomas & Betts, has participated in apprentice training by supplying their truck, which demonstrates grounding and bonding techniques and other field products. IEC National Silver Partner, Greenlee Textron, has helped apprentices gain the art of pipe bending by providing classes and videos. Beyond partners visiting classes, instructors regularly use the web resources of our partner members to reinforce the concepts that they cover in the classroom.
Another step taken to ensure that IEC Atlanta offers “The Training Advantage” to contractor members and students is to make sure there is an active Apprenticeship and Training Committee (ATC). The ATC consists of IEC member contractors and partner members. They meet regularly to review the strategic plan and to make sure the chapter continues to make progress in helping students learn. Each month this group reviews an instructor, unannounced. The chapter staff sets up a time and date for each committee member to observe a class for at least two hours; during this time, the member completes a detailed evaluation form that covers what they observe. The member is asked to rate the instructor on how well they were prepared for class, if he/she used multiple delivery methods, how well students were engaged in the discussion, and if the instructor spent additional time talking to students about their experience in class. This process has led to better prepared instructors, interesting classes, and honest feedback on student experiences in the classroom, while also leading to improved retention rates in each year of the apprenticeship program.
While this is a snapshot of some of the steps that helped IEC Atlanta win the 2012 IEC National Apprentice Chapter of the Year Award, these steps were really taken to make sure that IEC contractor members and their employees receive the highest quality of training available. Spotlighting the talent of IEC Instructors and the electrical expertise of IEC Partner members culminates in making sure apprentices have the skills and abilities needed to propel the electrical industry forward.
IEC Chapters replicate this commitment to quality training for electrical contractors throughout the country. The IEC Atlanta chapter staff regularly attends best practice discussions to share information on what works and what needs improvement. IEC National maintains an active ATC consisting of contractor members, instructors, and industry specialists that constantly work to strengthen the curriculum. If your company has not experienced “The Training Advantage,” then please contact your local IEC Chapter to get involved so that you may reap the rewards of a well-trained workforce, reduced errors, and enhanced customer satisfaction.
Todd Hawkins, CAE works as the training director for the IEC Atlanta and Georgia chapters. Hawkins started his career with IEC in 2002 and enjoys connecting people to the jobs and education that prepares them for a rewarding career in electrical construction.