Thursday, July 10, 2014

Understanding Work Processes and the German Apprenticeship System

July 10, 2014 - Bremen, Germany. By Todd Van Auken.

On Monday, July 7th, the group visited the University of Bremen’s Institute of Technology and Education (ITB).  One of the hosts, Dr. Falk Howe, gave a presentation titled "Task-oriented learning: the bridge between school and the workplace".  As with most occupations, there are many work processes in which trainees must develop competencies.  Dr. Howe described a learning model that clusters similar work processes into a single “sphere of activity”.  This makes learning outcomes more manageable by taking high numbers of separate work processes and placing them within nine to fifteen spheres.  While working to gain competence in a sphere, the apprentice must perform the proper tasks in four successive phases.

The first phase, acceptance, involves the beginning of a task or project and utilizes a variety of skills including communication and technical.  An example could be answering a call from a prospective customer who would like a security system installed in her home.  The apprentice should have an understanding of the system features as well as cost and time estimates. Once the customer agrees to the conditions, the apprentice must then begin the planning phase.  This would involve drawing plans, making calculations and gathering the proper tools and equipment for the job. Next, the apprentice performs the tasks related to the installation from start to finish.  This phase is referred to as implementation.  Precision and quality would be important as the reputations of the company and the apprentice would be at stake.

Finally, during the completion phase, the apprentice and the customer review the finished product to ensure satisfactory installation.  The apprentice would also handle the payment and bookkeeping aspect of the job.  This beginning to end work process training helps the apprentice understand not just one task of a project, but rather the project in its entirety.

Of course there is much more to this model including the measurement of methodological, social, and technical competences and the development of curricular frameworks for particular occupations, but the four phases serve as the core of the model.

Mr. Siever, Owner of Siever + Knuppel Elektrotechnik
On Wednesday, July 9th, the crew visited a local electronics manufacturing company named Siever and Knuppel Elektrotechnik.  The business is small with only fifteen employees, but develops various prototypes for local and foreign entities including the military.  The owner, Dieter Siever, met with us to explain how his company utilizes apprentices with a focus on electronics and electrical engineering.  When asked how he trains an apprentice, he described the similar phases incorporated in Dr. Howe’s model.  His apprentice must also perform the various tasks of a project from start to finish.  This was a great demonstration of theory becoming practice.                

Todd Van Auken is Clinical Coordinator of the St. Petersburg College's Radiography Program in St. Petersburg, FL.
He is also a doctoral student in career and workforce education at the University of South Florida.