Their past colours their lives.
For 6 years I have had contact with trades students, delivering trade training and
Assessment in a classroom, on-site and simulated workshop settings and during that time the students past surfaces regularly.
Feeling threatened in situations, inadequate, not smart enough and other behaviours that don’t seem connected to the past, on reflection and after interaction with all but a very few students, these reactions stem from their past experiences.
The classroom was a terrifying place on the whole, literacy and numeracy issues were swept under the carpet and behaviours learned to disguise them. Reading was not encourage so comprehension suffered and after time, the text-book became the enemy. Amazing how many become angry, restless and aggressive when confronted by a text-book installation manual and remember reading books and having no idea what the content was on about.
From refusing to put pen (or pencil in this case) to paper, telling me that they had never completed a written test, to the most interesting a student who stood up mid class through his books across the room onto the wall and yelled out “This is all Bullshit”. This week the reaction slightly more subtle expressed in a low voice at the rear of the room, “I don’t do theory, I just do what they tell me to do”.
This fear of text stems from their past classroom experiences and failures to achieve and understand the concepts they were being fed.
The stigma of being a trade student attaches itself to them, no good at school, like to do things with their hands, not academic, so can only be a trades person. While the truth is something quite different. Trades people earn good money can run their own business with small set up costs, no rent on premises and minimal tools and equipment, just a Certificate III, several units in small business, a license, some insurance and they can be away.
No HEX debts, years in University with no income and then looking for a job and from their on with more study while working to become a sub-contractor, contractor, major contractor and general builder, then University and Architecture, project management, developer. That’s not a bad career path for someone who started out as a trades person..
In the Workplace
These students are the lowest or second lowest on the site, they are not really treated as skilled workers and expected to know everything and work as fast and as effectively as a qualified trades person. They are on low wages (less than labourers) and in general their self-esteem is low. To top that off regularly apprentices lose the most treasured asset their driver’s license.
As a result of the CB-A project this year (2011) and the changes I am trying to embed in the delivery and assessment of apprentice training I believe that those memories will become just that in time, just distant memories. As they continue through their training and are exposed to more basic problem solving and personal input based learning, thoughts of past failures will diminish and fade.
Well that is the plan anyway, only time will tell….