High Quality Instructors
In the years I have been involved with registered apprenticeship (RA) programs, I have heard on more than one occasion that career and technical education plays a lesser role than academic education in our nation’s K-16 system. Meanwhile, many of our RA programs are spending substantial sums of money on remediating their incoming apprentices. Be these issues perception or truth, it is in our best interest to ensure that our RA programs recruit and develop the best craftspeople in order provide high quality instruction to our apprentices. This cannot be accomplished merely by hiring the best carpenter or plumber from the field and hoping s/he has a knack for passing on the tips of the trade.
In fact, performing well within one’s trade requires a totally different skill set than that of an instructor. Therefore, it is incumbent upon each Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee to establish a pathway for incoming instructors to earn the credentials that provide the pedagogical tools to become high quality instructors. These tools should include mentoring: placing new instructors with veteran instructors who exhibit excellence and defined professional development: including participating in formal coursework as well as related-conferences, workshops, etc. It seems that human nature tends to push most of us towards taking the path of least resistance. Accordingly, benchmarks must be established and met (See a sample framework below). And, most importantly, instructors need to be supported throughout this process…in both moral and financial terms (i.e., tuition, books, etc.).
Step 1 Obtain a permanent state teacher’s license within four years of one’s hire date
(Raise to industry foreman rate)
Step 2 Obtain an Associate’s degree within six years of one’s hire date
(Raise to industry general foreman rate)
Step 3 Obtain a Bachelor’s degree within 10 years of one’s hire date
(Raise to industry superintendant rate)
Step 4 Obtain two of the three following:
A related Master’s degree;
An industry-related Train-the-Trainer (i.e., OSHA 500, AWS-CWI/CWE, etc.);
Serve 10 years on the shop floor as an instructor in good standing.
(Annual $2500 holiday bonus)
As you may have noticed, the recently updated and approved standards (29CFR29) include requirements for instructor quality. Ultimately, if we want to be treated like professionals then it is time we begin acting like professionals!
“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.” --RFK--
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I could hear the diesel rumble of trucks. I could see the faint pink tint of the bottomless sky when the sun is just barely waking up and when most people are still sunk deep in their dreams and pillows. I smelled the smoke that reminds me of 4th of July coming off the welder’s stick. I felt the aliveness and freshness and excitement and possibility that comes from creating something and that’s how I knew I wanted to be a construction worker; an electrician. It took me a few more years after college to find the right Apprenticeship program in the right city for me. In that time I served my community for 2 years with AmeriCorps--one year renovating campgrounds at a National Park and one year recruiting volunteers for a Big Brother Big Sister program. After that I tried lots of jobs! I worked making electron micrographs at a museum, I sold camping supplies, I served lattes, and I even made my big Hollywood splash as an extra in one episode of a sitcom! There was something great about every job I’ve ever had, and I always showed up early, worked hard and learned everything I could.
I was open minded and willing to give anything a try. Those years were fun, and adventurous.
But always in the back of my mind I kept wondering when I would get a “real” job. Many of my college friends were moving on through grad school, getting married and buying houses. I really didn’t know what my next move was going to be. I loved bicycling, so a friend offered to help get me a job as a bicycle messenger. He had been one for over 10 years. He was 40, had no emergency savings, no health insurance, no retirement, no car, and he was making $9 an hour. I took one long look at his life, another long look at my life, and decided it was time for me to get started with my career!
I was accepted into the IBEW Local 11 Inside Wireman Apprenticeship Program in June of 2004. For the past 4 years and 10 months I’ve gotten all the diesel rumbling, early mornings, welders smoke, and excitement I was looking for-- and more! I now have years of on the job experience, I am a full member of the IBEW, I get “real” paychecks, health insurance, and a pension. The Apprenticeship program has given me an education, a professional network, and the chance to make a name for myself in the electrical industry. I’ll be a journeyman in June. --Jennifer Murphy
I was just talking to someone who teaches sociology at a community college. She told me that she tells students that if they want to make money they need to go into the trades. Our plumber makes $65 an hour--I think almost as much as some of my doctors! I don't know many college graduates with a BA who can make that much money. Plus they have student debt as opposed to apprentices who don't. Jennifer made a really good choice. It's also great to have the President and the Secretary of Labor who appreciate the value of apprenticeship in economic growth and frequently promote it. I was on the White House website and did a word search on "apprenticeship" and found it several times. It even looks like President Obama is incorporating apprenticeship into his stock speech as being a post-secondary option for training the workforce.
Check out this link! http://www.whitehouse.gov/search/?keywords=apprenticeship
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