How Do We Learn Now?
One of the many things the pandemic taught us is that Faith Technologies can pivot, adapt, adjust and overcome. In March of 2020, we were forced to adopt a new approach to training. With well over 450 apprentices on track to successfully graduate within one to four years and with Faith Technologies University’s standing as the largest provider of in-house electrical apprenticeship training, closing it down completely was not an option.
So while the government was trying to figure things out, Faith’s talent development team came up with a new plan to develop our version of a federally approved electrical apprentice training program that both met the business strategies of our clients and prepared qualifying apprentices to pass any state journeyman’s exam.
We did that by offering new options to the students like virtual instructor-led online training which was rolled out as soon as we had classes developed. Faith’s training also included online self-paced classes that covered the National Electric Code, theory and safety. Instead of paying the student their wages to sit in class and paying additional costs for travel and hotels, they were rewarded with every class completed with a lump sum of cash added to their next paycheck.
While all these tools helped with retention, it still could not replace the training model that was in place before COVID. Now we are bringing back in-person training for a portion of time for each classroom level. It still allows a person to excel at their own pace, while having instructors and learning advocates within reach to answer questions and council apprentices with navigation in training or career paths.
We also know that it takes a team of individuals to help guide a person in a career which has become so complex and specialized today. At Faith, this team is not limited to just the talent development team but also includes foremen, project managers, coworkers and mentors. This is not your father’s electrical trade, and the training delivery model must change as well. It requires specialized training and experience to become the electrician of today. It takes more technology with more training options and higher safety expectations, and less antiquated restrictions of what others may think an electrician needs to learn.
This year I will celebrate 45 years in the trade. I have seen so many advances in this field ranging from technology to alternative energies, from new materials to new tooling. The trade has embraced electrical safety much more, and at Faith that shows with a total recordable incident rate (TRIR) of 0.07, consistently less than industry averages. It also proves that a safer workplace is achievable.
I see a struggle in trying to continue to use the old template of training for the new electrician post pandemic. Remote and online learning has its place, and we have discovered in-person training will never be like it was. Regardless, we must continue to develop employees to become the most trained, the safest and the most successful people within the industry. We are consistently looking for new tools and technologies to help those who apply themselves to learn and succeed. We must also accept a culture of training which happens not only in the classroom, but is recognized and encouraged on the job site as well. We need to back fill the baby-boomer generation that was trained without the tools we have today but retain the experience and knowledge that cannot be found in a textbook or a Google search.
Today’s electricians have so many tools to find information right at their fingertips. With laptops, smartphones and tablets, we can access information as fast as we can type it in a search engine. I have always said, half of being a good electrician is your skills and knowledge, the other half is finding the answers you need when you need them.
When I was an apprentice there were a limited number of resources that I could stuff within my small briefcase. I did the best I could do at the time with no laptop, no smartphone and no internet. The only technology I had was a pager and possibly a radio to communicate with the managers at the shop. Fortunately, the skilled electrical worker of today can rely on electronically accessing everything they might need for a compliant, safe, and successful electrical installation. And all of it at the speed of light. It’s how we learn now, and it’s how we train the electrician of the future.