Companies and their trainees in professions with technical competence also suffer from Corona. TÜV Rheinland Academy, as a leading provider of technical competence development, has therefore expanded its worldwide TVET services. Welders and electrical engineers are now also attending virtual classrooms in their vocational training to learn their trades. The solution: simulations shorten practical exercises on industrial equipment used in small groups and at a distance since the pandemic.
For trainees and students of an oil company on the Arabian Peninsula, the lockdown was initially shocking. Their training was threatened to be suspended indefinitely. But they were lucky. Within a few days, their training center set up virtual classrooms for the vocational training. The training center operator, TÜV Rheinland Academy, implements technical training for industrial groups worldwide as part of its TVET programs. TVET stands for Technical and Vocational Education and Training and is based on the dual training model that is very successful in Germany. Its clients are companies, educational institutions, and governments from all over the world that invest in their workforce’s technical competence development. TÜV Rheinland Academy advises its customers, develops educational concepts and training plans, and operates worldwide.
150 trainers and 1,000 apprentices with new training plans in the virtual classroom
The effort was not without its price, with Corona, the TVET team had to rethink everything once again. In Saudi Arabia, the approximately 150 trainers converted the current training plans for oil and gas technicians, which were currently running for prospective welders, electricians, process control, and operations specialists. Instead of regularly alternating between the training workshop and the classroom, they shifted a large part of the curriculum to digital platforms. They brought forward the academic units and implemented virtual classrooms in vocational training.
Virtual classrooms in vocational training and in general take place on an Internet platform where trainers and students meet at the same time and design the lessons together. The advantage is that physical presence is no longer required. At the same time, however, trainers and students experience each other directly via their mobile devices and can interact. To achieve this, the trainers had to adapt their didactics and methods to the virtual classroom platforms. The practical parts of the training were initially prepared intensively with instructional films and simulations. Of course, a welder has to practice handling the different welding devices until he or she can make a good weld. With simulation tools, some practical skills can already be developed, even if the trainees cannot work on a real device in the training workshop. Welding simulators already impart a technical feel for the operation of the equipment and material properties. Once the loosening up had begun, the participants were thus well prepared for their first use of the machine – naturally with the necessary distance and in small groups. In the meantime, the practical modules are being made up for. Our experience with Corona also shows that many things can be done that previously seemed impossible. The trainers on site have worked with significant commitment. No participant fell by the wayside – on the contrary. Some of the trainers even reported that they sometimes also managed to improve their performance control. Because every day, they assign tasks that the students have to implement and submit. As a result, performance deficits and comprehension problems were noticed earlier by some of them, who could otherwise duck away more easily in real classroom situations.
Conclusion: Virtual classrooms make sense in technical competence development
Even if the practical training of the TVET programs remains a central component, it is conceivable that the virtual classrooms in vocational training could become a permanent part. Travel and accommodation will only be necessary for practical modules, which will bring great cost benefits to a giant empire like China. Investments in mobile devices will then be less decisive, especially if “physical distancing” is still necessary. TÜV Rheinland Academy will also be able to organize the assessment of performance levels and even examinations online in the future using tried and tested tools. And the experience we all made during the pandemic shows that many things can be implemented sensibly in the development of technical skills in the virtual classroom.