Trade School During COVID-19: Information for Employers

Charlotte BeveridgeApprenticeships, News, TrainingLeave a Comment

April 9, 2020: NECA Education & Careers Trade School During COVID-19 – View the latest here

As we have previously advised, NECA Education & Careers made the decision to largely close our Trade School from 24 March 2020. We took this decision because it was impossible for us to continue operating as usual and meet the social distancing requirements which are so essential to control the spread of COVID-19.

We have, however, continued to bring a small number of classes into the school each day, initially to enable those students with only 1 or 2 days of a subject (unit of competency) to complete that subject. We have extended that to enable more students to complete specific subjects – again by only running a small number of classes each day. Each class is being split into two, with two teachers per class and staggered breaks across all classes so that the social distancing requirements can be met.

We have increased the cleaning frequency and focus to assist in mitigating any potential transmission source as well ensuring all classrooms and staff areas have adequate access and supplies of hand sanitiser.  

The next 2 weeks

When we closed the school, we advised a tentative re-opening date of Monday 20 April. However, we have since made the decision that we will not be fully re-opening on that date.

Rather, we will be continuing up until the Friday 24 April (including the week immediately after Easter) to run small number of classes each day, again with each class split in two, with two teachers per class as outlined above. Those classes and the individual students are being advised accordingly.

Hence employers may not have all or any of their apprentices attending trade school over that period.

What then?

It’s very clear that this crisis is going to last for some months. The social distancing requirements are going to be in place for the foreseeable future and there’s the ever present possibility that Victoria may move to stage 4 restrictions. We don’t know what such restrictions would involve. 

On the advice of the Australian and Victorian Chief Medical Officers, TAFEs and RTOs such as ourselves are able to open, subject to adhering to social distancing requirements.

Given all these factors, clearly NECA Education & Careers cannot continue to train apprentices in the usual way. One option would be to suspend all training until the crisis is over – however, this would likely mean no trade school training for up to 6 months, which in turn would have significant knock-on effects for apprentices and the trade school itself.

We have been working hard to find a solution which would enable students to undertake teacher-led remote online learning. While this is not the ideal method of undertaking trade training, given the mixture of theory and practical training and assessment, we have to be flexible and adapt so that all of our students have the opportunity to train through the crisis.

Moving to a remote learning environment is not straightforward. It’s not our normal or preferred teaching approach with apprentices – this has always been teacher led ‘face to face’ which has always been our strength and source of our quality outcomes. Therefore our learning and assessment strategies were not designed for this environment and it is likely that some apprentices may struggle with an online approach. While we are still working through the detail, we will over time, be implementing the following.

  • Initially from the week commencing Monday 27 April:
    • Half of our normally scheduled apprentice classes will attend each week. In other words, apprentices will only attend school every second week. Apprentices will attend on their normal school day, however staggered start and end times and breaks will apply. The intensive hygiene measures outlined above will continue.
    • Students and employers will be advised of the revised scheduled timetable shortly.
    • Classes will continue to be split in half, with a teacher for each half class, so that we can maintain the social distancing requirements.
  • Progressively over time
    • We will commence placing the theory learning resources for each subject online.
    • Over time, but not immediately, students will attend a ‘virtual’ class on some of their normal trade school days for the theory components and primarily only physically attend the trade school for the practical components and assessments. This enables us to continue to offer training while reducing the number of students at the campus each day so that we can meet the social distancing requirements.
    • The virtual class will be teacher-led and will use video-conference technology. The teacher together with all students will have video-conference sessions at set times throughout each day. In between these sessions, students will be required to work through the resources available to them, including online content and quizzes, their text books and learner companion guide for the subject. Their teacher will be available throughout the day to respond to questions and provide guidance.
    • Some subjects will require students to attend the school more frequently than other subjects. This is because some subjects have a greater focus on practical activities and assessments, things that can’t readily be done remotely.
    • Where apprentices are required to attend trade school, we will ensure that the numbers attending on any particular day meet the social distancing requirements, both within each classroom and across the trade school as a whole.

We are in the process of surveying all apprentices on their access to computers (inclusive of camera, microphone and speakers) and the internet. The preliminary results show that some apprentices do not have such access and we ask all employers to consider whether they are able to assist their apprentices in such circumstances by, for instance, allowing them access to such a computer and the internet at the employer’s office.

These unprecedented times are affecting every aspect of our lives, both personally and professionally. We are all having to adapt. It’s inevitable that this crisis means that most, if not all apprentices, will finish their trade school training later than originally scheduled. We appreciate your patience and that of our students as we work hard to adapt to the new reality.

We will be communicating regularly with apprentices and employers as we transition to the training delivery model outlined above. In the meantime queries should be directed to Student Services.

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