Now it had happened after all. The Corona pandemic forced us to close the entire training workshop and send all employees and trainees to the home office. You can read about this in the article by our training workshop manager Thomas Külsen.
Nobody knew at first how to cope with this. This was an unprecedented situation for us. Now we had to stick together and keep the apprenticeship alive.
Communication is key
The whole year was planned out. The second year of apprenticeship was in the middle of preparing for the exam and should soon complete his FE1 (final exam part 1). The trainees of the first year had just returned from their company assignments and should start with the basic electrical training. How could this be possible now?
The first week in the home office was devoted to developing a concept for how we can continue to meet our annual plans and fulfill our teaching assignment. Here the big keyword was “communication”. While we provided our trainees with tasks from the textbooks and then discussed them in video or telephone conferences, we trainers were always in touch. At the same time, new problems arose. From ” the top” new working time regulations were decided upon due to Covid-19, which unfortunately also affected our flexibility. What else was there to come?
Digital training in the home office
The second week in the home office was coming up. Two instructors, two classes, each instructor gets one class – that was our plan. While training workshop manager Thomas Külsen continued to prepare the second year of apprenticeship for FE1 and tried to keep the boys excited, I took care of the first year of apprenticeship and their introduction to the basics of electrical engineering. Digital training was now on the agenda. The documents for the theoretical part were ready. The video conference was started and everyone was present. “It’s starting off on a promising note,” I thought. The projection of the documents during the conference also worked. Now it was time to get down to business.
Nobody likes theory, whether in the training workshop, in the vocational school or as it is now in the home office. The cosiness of the home sofa also made it difficult to stay focused. The coffee tasted good, the younger brothers and sisters looked into the camera and the longing look out of the window into the open air made it clear: Motivation is declining. Now it was time to get the boys back again. With examples from everyday life on the subject and little jokes I tried to spark their interest. It worked, everyone was back on course.
Teamwork makes the dream work
The third week began – and the trouble took its course. Everyone followed the news. How bad will it get? What impact will the spread of the virus have? The inevitable happened: short-time work! The problem: trainees must not be sent on short time. So how do you manage to train an apprentice digitally from home with 3.85 hours per day?
The morning telephone conferences with Thomas and our boss showed a good work ethic. We did not want to give up so easily. We agreed to make the best of it and not to abandon the boys. The apprenticeship had to go on!!!
Every day the first year of apprenticeship was given the task of creating a circuit diagram. First of all, for introduction, the standard home installation circuits. At the same time, the students revised their learning material and asked questions. Meanwhile, Thomas worked on special tasks for the second year of apprenticeship and let the boys’ brains run wild. Calls from the trainees after our regular working hours were no problem, we were always available.
Instructional videos against the lack of motivation
For the first year of the apprenticeship it gradually became more and more difficult to draw up the circuit diagrams, as there was no reference to practice. What to do? A solution was needed. I used the time when the trainees were on vacation and went to the training workshop to shoot videos. Videos showing hands-on work. Of course, they wanted to touch, strip wires, connect switches and lamps and take measurements themselves. The urge of the craftsman pulsed in their veins. Nevertheless, the training videos were effective. The trainees were willing and motivated. They always completed their tasks independently and pestered us trainers with questions to which they usually already had the answers themselves. This is how it should be.
End in sight – or better: new beginning
Forwarding organisational documents has not been a problem in the age of digitalisation. Our communicative behaviour among each other helped us to accept the challenge and master it as best we could.
So the whole concept of digital education became almost commonplace and a success in itself. The next few weeks passed in a flash. The vocational school block went into the next round, digitally of course. The external electro-pneumatics course for the first year of apprenticeship also took place. The news gave rise to hopes of improvement.
And then the good news finally came: the training workshop can be reopened – with strict hygiene regulations and distance rules. We have done it. Together we have mastered the challenge of digital training from the home office. But nothing was over yet. After all, the corona virus was still part of reality.
Now we had to prepare and plan everything for another week so that we could slowly return to normal working life despite all the regulations …
In the next part I will tell you how our first week back in the training workshop went and how the apprenticeship of our mechatronics engineer trainees continues.