“Is reality” they say and my experience with teen and early twenty year old students supports that.

Image of a student cutting 55mm cove cornice in a mitre box on a bench set up using planks and trestles

Working out which mitre to cut.


A face 20 years of age stares back at me across a workbench, young wrinkle free and bright-eyed but with an expression as many times before, confirmation of that saying.

An issue, problem, or technical decision comes up.   The expression, one of disappointment/bewilderment appears which is associated with evasion tactics and behaviours, usually followed by a statement,  “Why do we have to do theory anyway?” or “Why does it all have to be so hard?”

“Define hard” I ask.

Is that, requires:

  • effort?
  • thought?
  • time?
  • patients?
  • practice?
  • perseverance?

Frown appears on face, followed by a disappearing student usually for a cigarette outside.  A common scene during apprentice wall and ceiling lining training and other trade too I suspect.

May be years of school and using these method to avoid responsibility and work are to blame, may be not.  Whatever it is, surely there must be people in the wall & ceiling Industry that want to be there.  I have seen a few, though they mainly emerged at towards the end of their training when the realisation that they were going to be in charge and responsible for their work, mortgage, children and life finally hits home.

Almost 50% of trainees don’t seem to think that being paid to learn is worth it.  When asked directly why, responses are very similar.

They don’t give it a thought at all!  They don’t think of it as learning! We don’t get paid much!  It is not what we do at work!

The training must be at fault, right?

How can we change the perception of trade apprentices in the Wall & Ceiling Lining Industries that their trade training is learning?

  • Tell them with details, why they are doing what they are doing.
  • Relate it directly to work, the workplace and their personal experience.
  • Use Authentic projects and exercises that they have some control over creating.
  • Use scenarios with tools needed to successfully interpret & work out a plan of action.
  • Assess them using peer & self assessment, group reflection & guidance to competency.
  • Give them proper structured feedback with respect on their progress or status.
  • Provide the opportunity to give you feedback on how you performed.
  • Act on the feedback to adjust and improve the training & delivery of that unit.


An image of an income & Expenses list to calculate hourly rate

Very basic cash projections for a tradesperson

So far my efforts have shown signs of improvement and for the first year apprentices skills have increased in basic Fix and Flushing areas.

“WIN WIN”  This supplies a boost to their confidence and provides a value add to their employers who can trust them to undertake work at industry standard sooner.  It makes them more productive and cost-effective which gives them more opportunities to excel, so everybody wins.

Peer & Self Assessment.  Peer-SelfBothAssessment

Using the double-sided form (link above) which allows for a grade and comments by the student and the peer, the grades given are consistent with past assessments, in that they all graded themselves down harder and their peers all graded them almost always as I have graded them slightly higher than the self assessment grade.


A small shift in methods and approach to the issues of “Confidence and Perception” is starting to improve the satisfaction levels of both Student and Lecturer.   Fingers crossed and looking to the future, may be even more young tradespeople who realise that getting paid, even badly at first to learn is worth the effort.

University graduates have years of learning, get a qualification and have a Hex debt to pay back that apprentices don’t.  That has to be worth thinking about too.  Cheers

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Apprentice Advice

ApprenticeArticleSat19thJan Monday the 21st Jan 2013 is the first day of the new semester for apprentice training at tafeSA and I am starting at Noarlunga Campus this year on alternate weeks with Gilles Plains so it should be an interesting year leading up to the move to Tonsley SIEC in Oct/Nov

As part of the years topics we do careers and how to get where you want to go.

InterviewsArticleSat19thJanSaw these two articles in the Saturday Advertiser 19th January 2013 and they give apprentices some great advice.

Things are changing at tafeSA and as the labour market gets tougher people looking for apprenticeships will be required to work harder to get them.  Presentation and attitude are key to success in almost every career and those who stand out are  noticed and move on through their careers.

Waiting to be noticed is not enough you have to show people what you can do and let them see that you are an asset to the company, business or trade team.  Talking to others and learning anything you can from anyone you meet gives you more knowledge to find solutions to challenges that arise.  In the trades the best tradesperson is the one who can work out the solutions and get the job done as a competent professional.

Good luck to all the apprentices out there starting a new career this year, live in the moment and focus on your job and your career, it is up to you to succeed.  welcome to 2013…

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On-line learning

Time is passing, technology races towards mobile e-learning, Moodle and books with vowels in  front of the names like iBook, eBooks, ePubs, are sprouting like mushrooms.   A thought occurs to me.   As staff and trainers grow older and cuts bite deep into training we are falling into a holding pattern, treading water.
The construction industry is in the foetal position and only just beginning to move slightly, trades are not employing new apprentices to replace the workers exiting the industry even with the $13,000 subsidy and lecturer numbers are shrinking and ageing.
“All sounds terrible right!”
There are people coming through the system but they are out numbered and need upskilling too.
Training in these new technologies is time intensive, expensive and you have to be committed.  “Not in a mentally insane way” but a motivated way.  That means change and other dreaded terms, like collaboration, sharing, auditing, validation, all challenges in themselves.
The biggest surprise to me came recently.   Involved in working since 2008 on e-learning, mobile delivery, Assessment for Learning, Moodle, Electronic resources a person who I have had association with over these years and shown no interest outside of a slight motivation for a Diploma and asking me to setup a Moodle site for a unit for his course suddenly took off in the e-learning and resources sphere.  Google Doc spread sheets for resulting something I had been working on for 12 months or so but had not shown him bloomed and took hold.  A new student management system had been installed complex and daunting, but his training in it and a desire to show the best student of the year meant that he needed a system to track the results live.  This combined with the issue of an IPad for trials was the trigger for a benefit.
The newer versions are more complex, though easy to use,  they are live documents so all lecturers can access them on line and add results at the same time.
My take home from this, something mentioned to me by a Mentor Michael Coghlan is that you keep going if you believe that it is a good thing with benefits and when the benefit is realised those who have heard you speak or been in contact with you will come on board.
Demonstration of those benefits is paramount, promotion of every aspect of the benefits and opportunities is so much more important than the final product looking perfect and designer.  Well lesson learned and some heart taken from the hours I have put into projects and thought they were not being productive.  Progress is a slow and temperamental beast, till it starts to run and then it is time to hold on.
Cheers Rob
Posted in CB-A Project, CPSISC Coop, Mentoring, Qualifications, tafeSA, Training, Uncategorized, Wall & Ceiling Lining | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

tafeSA Prevoc Class of 2007

The Prevoc class of 2007

Image of the 2007 Wall & Ceiling Lining prevoc students

Class of 2007

Just heard from apprentices that two of this prevoc class of 2007 are still in the industry and working. Hoping they may see this post and look the other apprentices up on our Facebook (Rob Beckett)page where we keep in contact with industry, apprentices past and present and any new developments in our industry

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Wall & Ceiling Lining Facebook page

As part of the apprentice training at tafeSA Gilles Plains I have set up a Facebook page The first reaction shows real promise, a post of some work completed by a student and almost instantly the engagement began. The post read the best example of this project by a student in 7 years. The response, while a bit inflated “And that’s how it’s done people!” showed the first sign of pride in achievement.

Secondly the profile picture on one student showed him playing a guitar, a conversation began about music and guitars. A small but positive start to the engagement process and as a result this group of apprentices has a more defined relationship with each other and me and as they move through the experience of training and becoming the professional tradespeople, employers and builders that association should offer them industry contacts, mentors and support.

A better start to this project I could not have asked for… “Unless you try you never succeed, unless you fail your not really trying…”

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Cornice Project

Cornice Project Complete

Jimmi Savage’s first attempt and it’s pretty damn good… The first attempt at cornice work can be a really confusing time and this exercise allows for the gentle easing into it. Not too much upside down and backward, just some hands on practical experience.

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Canon 5D Mark II

For years I have looked this Canon 5DMark II and thought it’s not the camera it’s the image or the photographer, but now I realise it is just a tool to help more your limitations away from you.

I have this camera now and it is brilliant, everything I had hoped it would be it is and even though it has been surpassed by a supposed better camera, I love it.

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TED Talk, On-line learning & Delivery

This is a talk on on-line delivery of cources materials. Well worth a look…

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Finally got one to test my resources

After a long time working on resources for on-line learning, delivery of training and Assessment, it has finally arrived “The IPad”. I must admit it has only been three years since starting the e-learning projects not that long in the scheme of things, I guess. Well here it is, so far yes I can attendance track students, result them from practical projects and units completed via the SIS tafeSA systems. All good.

But what about the work side of things, the word documents, really, can’t this be sorted out, have Apple and Adobe and Microsoft forgotten who their customers are. May be they have by the look of Microsoft’s profit forecasts or should we say loss forecasts. So many loyal customers just wanting to use Flash, Word & other simple everyday products. Yes you can use Google docs, text editor that look like word processors but there is always something that makes it difficult.

The tafeSA Moodle site runs ok and things appear and function until I get to the assessment tools. Match the answers (flash bases) SWF file, no go. I really hope the “PC based Surface” release will fix these annoying little things and help them all remember that the customers are the first thing that Apple, Microsoft, Adobe etc should consider after all we buy and use the products and business buys a lot of hardware and software.

The potential for the IPad, Surface, Android tablets is great in eduction, but I still feel they are babbling at the edges yet. I have tried, Tablet computers, Nexus One Smartphone, IPhone, Android tablets and now the IPad and found them wanting still. Better but still not quite there for everyday office use.

Posted in CPSISC Coop, RPL, tafeSA, Training, Wall & Ceiling Lining | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Follow Up

I just had to add this to the Confidence post…

In a recent article by an outgoing University head this has been discussed and while fresh in my mind highlighted the importance of the relationship between student and facilitator/lecturer/teacher, something that is not easily done on-line though not impossible. The formative assessment of the student, to gauge the amount of attention that may be needed to fill the gaps in personal skills and confidence. The bond between education, guild knowledge and confidence in tackling problem solving situations, decision making and action in our building/construction working world.


The discussion of fear and commitment that occurred after identifying the situation with this student was one not experienced formally by either of us. May be experienced by me but not accepted as the cause of such reluctance to act or proceed with a task by a student. The realisation of this has lead to an adjustment of attitude and practise, that I am grateful for as it will mean time spent assessing formatively which will help ease this lack of confidence in me and students/ tradespeople in the future. It will also change my session plans to avoid this gap in skills in future students and their trade workplaces and careers.

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