Coronavirus pandemic has caused major uncertainty.
Area training directors are busy planning for the return of apprentices this fall.
Despite an uptick in positive COVID-19 cases, many training directors are preparing for in-person instruction, although they are making contingency plans if the governor closes schools as he did in March.
At the onset of the coronavirus, k-12 schools, colleges and universities, registered apprenticeship programs and other educational centers had to either modify their schedules or shift to online learning.
Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 189 Training Director Rich Manley embraced the changes from the beginning. He was already in the process of adopting numerous new technologies into his apprentice training before the coronavirus pandemic hit.
Once Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine ordered all schools closed, training directors were forced to adapt to the unfolding situation.
Manley finished out the school year by having apprentices use email to submit assignments and communicate with instructors. Nearly all his apprentices were compliant, Manley said, adding he had a few classes try out an education technology service called Blackboard.
While he is preparing for in-person instruction this fall at the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 189 Training Center, Manley expects all Local 189 plumbing, pipefitting and welding apprentices to complete work online through Blackboard, with lessons and assignments placed in one convenient and organized place. The JATC instructors can even conduct testing through the learning management system, he added.
Although email, online learning and video conferencing provide great learning tools for certain course material, apprenticeship training for construction work still requires some hands-on learning.
“You’re not going to learn to weld on Blackboard,” Manley said.
While DeWine has allowed for in-person instruction in the fall, the situation remains fluid. This has led many training directors to have to plan for multiple scenarios.
IUPAT District Council 6 Training Director George Boots resumed in-person training for apprentices right before the July 4 holiday weekend. In-person journeyman upgrade classes followed during the week of July 6.
Boots said he and the apprentices taking part in the training are following the guidelines set forth by the CDC and Gov. DeWine. When apprentices enter the training center, they receive a temperature check and must fill out a questionnaire about possible COVID-19 symptoms. Face masks are required to be worn and only nine students are allowed in any classroom.
Due to the fluid situation, Boots knows he and his fellow instructors might need to adjust if state guidelines change. The main goal will be to ensure those taking part in training can do so safely.