Tag Archives: apprentices

Wrapping up the ECER 2019 experience – Part One: The opening session of the VETNET network

Once again, the annual European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) – organised by the European Educational Research Association (EERA) – has taken place. This time the venue was the University of Hamburg.
With this series of blog posts I try to cover different sessions in the program of the VETNET network – the research network for the field of vocational education and training (VET) and give some insights into developments in the network. In this first post start with the opening session of the VETNET program. Firstly I need to give some insights into the role of the networks of EERA in organising the conference and of the specific traditions of VETNET.

EERA and ECER as the common umbrella – VETNET as a community with its own identity

When the EERA was founded and started organising the ECER conferences on regular basis, the common umbrella was created in two ways. The EERA was shaped as the umbrella organisation of national associations for educational research. For the shaping of the conferences EERA invited the member associations to propose thematic networks that would then be in charge of organising their section in the conference programs. The network for research in vocational education and training (VET) – from the beginning on known as VETNET – was accepted as the Network 2 of EERA. The number of networks grew rapidly and they developed their own patterns to run peer reviews, to organise social events and to disseminate the research in their area of specialisation.

As a contrast to this general picture, the VETNET network has been from the very beginning more than just one of the EERA networks and a small club for organising part of the ECER program. Already in the founding phase there was a sense of building a community of VET researchers under the EERA umbrella. Yet, we were aware that we had somewhat different discipline-based backgrounds and in some countries the institutional commitment to VET was a basis of special disciplinary structures. Therefore, we have also paid attention to openness and mutual learning across the network.

In this spirit the VETNET network has developed a tradition of common Opening sessions – starting from ECER 1999 in Lahti, Finland (initiated by the VETNET program chair Johanna Lasonen). These opening sessions have mostly been keynote speeches by prominent researchers from the host country – with comments by invited discussants. Sometimes they have been panel discussions on critical research issues or on future research agendas. In ECER 2007 the Opening session celebrated the 10 years’ milestone of VETNET as an active network (as organiser of its own program). In ECER 2018 in Bolzano/Bozen the opening session got insights into VET development in the host region from different stakeholder perspectives (and from representatives of different lingual communities).

The VETNET Opening session at ECER 2019 – insights into apprentice training at Airbus sites in Germany

At the VETNET Opening session 2019 the invited speaker was Matthias Havekost, head of vocational training of Airbus commercial in Germany. He had been an active practitioner counterpart of several VET research projects of our institute (ITB, University of Bremen) and familiar with our research approach. From this perspective it was appropriate to invite him to discuss directly with the participants on the role of apprentice training and other training activities at Airbus sites in Germany.

We got a lot of information on the development of apprentice training in the course of years – regarding the demographic factors (aging workforce), technological changes (balancing between manual work and robotics) and educational changes (developing vocational pathways to higher qualifications). In between we had glimpses to the actual contexts of working and learning on site – provided by videos that were prepared by apprentices and students in so-called dual studies (that are based on a combination of apprentice training and higher education).

An interesting part of the presentation of Havekost was the example of a particular workplace learning arrangement at an early phase of apprentice training. Instead of explaining the task and launching the group work with the task that trainer took considerable time for a ‘teaming up’ phase. At this phase all apprentices were invited to discuss their views on their occupation, their understanding on their tasks and on the requirements. These views were shared in the group and contrastive views were discussed to the point that mutual understanding was reached. In the beginning some of the participants were annoyed by such delay instead of going straight to the task. Yet, it appeared that the group had developed a culture of collaboration and it finished the tasks in shorter time and with better quality than earlier groups. Also, teachers of vocational schools and representatives of production units noticed the change in the performance.

Another interesting aspect alongside the above-mentioned cultural change was the career development of trainers. For Havekost it was important that the in-company trainers are experienced in the production and keep up to date. Therefore, the trainers should be trainers only a certain number of years and not for too long time. This kind of rotation has been successfully implemented and those trainers who went back to other business in the company entered real interesting and adequate jobs (e.g. production, quality, manufacturing engineering).

In the light of the above we had a rich and lively discussion that gave food for thought for different sessions in the VETNET program. Also, we had some discussion on the training culture on other Airbus sites and on the role of VET systems in the respective countries. These issues were also taken up later.

I guess this is enough of the VETNET Opening session. In the following posts I will first report on the sessions that were closely related to my ongoing project and then cover some other themes.

German top politician visits Bau-ABC Rostrup – Great praise for the training of apprentices

Earlier this week Ministerpräsident Stephan Weil (prime minister of the Federal State of Lower Saxony) made a field visit to the North-German training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup. As the readers of this blog know, Bau-ABC played a vital role in our EU-funded project Learning Layers (2012-2016) as the main application partner of the Construction pilot of the said project. During the project researchers, technical partners and trainers of Bau-ABC worked together to develop an integrative toolset – the Learning Toolbox (LTB) to support vocational and workplace-based learning.
Now, some time after the end of the project, it was interesting to see, how the prime minister perceived the training and learning that was presented to him. Let us start with prime minister Weil’s comment on his Facebook page and then give more information on the visit.

Prime minister Weil on the training and learning at Bau-ABC Rostrup

On his Facebook page prime minister Weil published the following, highly inspired update (see below). And another picture shows that he was involved in hands-on training during the field visit (see below).

Weil Facebook 2019-08-28 Hands-on-training 2019-08-28

The comment that prime minister Weil made in his Facebook-update above was the following (translated into English by me):

“Today I have visited the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup and I can only say the following: They have a strong case – I have not seen anything similar before. They are training young people from all over Germany in two dozen training workshops and in very practical way to master 22 different construction trades, Digitization is solidly integrated in all curricula. And on top oft hat they have a broad-based provision of continuing training schemes. This is really impressive.”

And as we can see from the pictures, he took time to inform himself by trainers, apprentices and managers. And he also egaged himself in discussions and in hands-on training.

Reporting on the field visit in a journal article

The field visit was covered by the article of Christian Qapp “Ein Ministerpräsident als Azubi” published in NWZ Online. The article made the point that the prime minister took the role of apprentice (guided by an experienced apprentice) on the drilling grounds. And at different training sites the apprentices had a major role in presenting the training in their trades.

From the perspective of promoting digital competences in vocational education and training (VET) the article makes an interesting point (translated into English by me):

“The apprentices in carpentry, Vanessa Hermes, and in pipeline-building, Linus Köneking, explained the Learning Toolbox. The App for Smartphones and Tablet-PCs was developed in collaboration with Bau-ABC. Now it is being used there from the very first day of apprentice training on. On the one hand it contains practical information for apprentices on travel arrangements, Accommodation and on the daily menu of the canteen. But equally it presents learning tasks with three-dimensional models, digital measurements and with creating lists of necessary construction materials. With all this the apprentices can deal with by taking the gadget from their pocket. And, moreover, they themselves can  document their own work with the help of the app.”

Reflective commentary

For us, who had been involved in the project work that led to the development of the Learning Toolbox, it is very rewarding to hear such comments from a top politician and to read such news reports. They deliver to us the message that the use of the digital toolset Learning Toolbox has become lived practice. Moreover, it is clear that the apprentices are in the best position to tell, how thwy can benefit from using it. We are happy to follow the progress of Bau-ABC Rostrup and others who are working with the Learning Toolbox. It is very inspiring to learn more from the users.

Trainers’ views on introducing digital tools to vocational learning – Part Two: General views on the use of Learning Toolbox

With my previous post I started a series to report on interviews with vocational teachers, trainers and supporting researchers or consultants for the TACCLE4-CPD project. The project seeks to develop  continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers and trainers – with focus on enhancing digital competences. As I have mentioned, my work concentrates on the field of vocational education and training (VET).  I  still have some interviews on my list. Yet, it has been helpful to write down some points raised by full-time trainers of the training centre Bau-ABC. In this second post I will draw attention to the use of the digital toolset that we have co-developed in the Learning Layers project. I will start with the transition from the common project work to using the main product after the project.

Getting clarity on terms of service and permissions to use the toolset

The Learning Layers (LL) project had been a wide trans-national research and development (R&D) project in which many research partners, technical partners and application partners had been involved. During the long funding period they had co-designed, co-developed and pilot tested digital tools to support learning in the context of work. The digital toolset Learning Toolbox (LTB) was the main product that was developed in the Construction pilot of the LL project. After the project the LTB-developer team launched a start-up company (StackServices) to develop the LTB further and to support user organisations. This provided the basis for further use of the toolset after the project.

After the funding period the service provider has developed a differentiated set of contracts and permissions to regulate the use of the LTB software, the use of the LTB platform and the use of the services of the LTB-developers.

Shaping common structures for trade-specific LTB-stacks and overarching themes

In the LL project the LTB was shaped as a digital toolset that provides stacks (consisting of different kinds of tiles) for the users. During project the trainers who participated in the pilot testing developed their own stacks for their own apprentices and based on their own pedagogic priorities. After the project the trainers have developed a common structure for trade-specific stacks and for overarching themes. Also, they have coordinated the filing of digital worksheets and of photos. Thus, they have common patterns to work with the LTB.

Using LTB to enhance vocational (work process -oriented) learning

In the LL project the use of LTB was adjusted to the apprentices’ learning projects (that were shaped from the perspective of holistic look at planning, task preparation, task implementation and assessment). The learners were guided to self-organised (individual or team-based) learning. Whilst the LTB was at that time used mainly as trainers’ tool to provide guidance and instructions, it is now increasingly used as apprentices’ tool to report on their projects. Moreover, the use of specific Apps like GoConqr quiz apps has considerably enriched the learning process.

In particular LTB has served well as a central channel to essential web resources, such as the norms or regulations (as summaries) that need to be taken into account in construction work and to users’ guides for machinery and vehicles (also as summaries).

Using LTB from the perspective of apprentices

In all the interviews I got the picture that the apprentices have received well the use of LTB – once they have got the login sorted out and created their own account. The WLAN functions better and there are tablet PCs available at the training workshops. Via LTB the apprentices get advance information on the forthcoming training projects with which they will work during the next presence period in the training centre. When they are working with the projects the LTB serves as a documentary toolset for recording the interim results and final results. Moreover, the apprentices can check whether they are working correctly and eventually ask for advice (with reference to their photos etc.). And if something is not quite right, they can take the necessary measures and update their documentation. However, the final reporting with the apprentices’ portfolio reports has not yet been digitized – that is depending of training regulations (not  a matter for local decisions).

I guess this is enough of the general picture on using Learning Toolbox as support for training. In my next blog I will discuss the relevance of Learning Toolbox for two overarching learning areas – training and learning in ‘health and safety’ and support for learning German as foreign language (with focus on domain-specific vocabulary in construction sector).