Bring back effective training for electricians

June 12th, 2014, Published in Articles: Vector


Nico van den Berg

Nico van den Berg

When industrial, industry-related education was incorporated into the technical college curricula as the “N” subjects, the practical focus of industrial education encompassed both theoretical and practical training in workshops or classrooms, as well as on the job.

This provided good development for the trade person, introducing them into the industry as semi-skilled people with just enough knowledge to prepare them to start working in their chosen fields.

However, over time, this approach seemed to disappear from an otherwise effective form of training. The question is, why did industry allow this form of education to disappear? Who is more qualified, a person who has ten years’ experience or an N6 learner?

Skill and competencies were introduced in the South African National Qualifications Framework (NQF) as “critical cross-field outcomes” to address this matter, but this is not effective.

The need for knowledge based on experience and skill, as well as on current expertise or prior learning, is high on the agenda as it provides a means to recognise the abilities of those previously excluded from formal education and training.

Whatever one’s views on the links between the economy and education and training, it is clear that government must respond to the training problem before it is too late.

Changes in technology demand that trainers, too, acquire new skills to stay abreast. The curricula now demand that training centres provide training in programmable logic controller (PLC) and variable speed drive (VSD) technology, for example. The old form of training simply has no bearing on the learner’s practical assessment or on preparing them for the industry awaiting them. Even those trainers who start their training careers with considerable prior professional experience eventually become out of touch with technical and social issues. We need a new form of training, a newer version of the industrial educational system.

In most cases, the learner must be involved with suppliers who should educate them on how to implement their product correctly and, in doing so, build learners’ confidence in procedures of safe use and proper installation. This also bolsters health and safety.

Workshop training transmits general principles or trade theory. Workplace learning, on the other hand, teaches the procedures in a particular workplace, as well as situation-specific competence.

“Book knowledge” alone is not considered an effective learning tool but forms part of the regulative and legislative parts that will guide the learner. Using or simulating a panel consisting of a distribution board or an electrical circuit provides the learner with practice before he or she is introduced to the work place. The practical assessment is the main part of the training programme.

Apprenticeship programmes require both classroom and on-the-job training. Apprentices must demonstrate what they have learned through written tests and practical application, under less-than-perfect circumstances, demonstrating capabilities for real job-site performance.

I believe that the time for change is here. It is now or never. We as trainers and training providers must implement our training programmes to address the needs of the relevant industry trades. The need for qualified electricians and related trades will only increase in the near future, resulting in unsafe, non-compliant installation work posing risks to users and technical personnel alike.

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