In my two previous posts on the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project I have worked with a series of blogs on the preparation of the forthcoming Field Workshops with the Learning Toolbox (LTB). The first post I gave insights into changes in the use of technology and in the development of tools. The second one discussed implications for Data protection/Data Security (“Datenschutz”). In this third post I will give a news update on the parallel pilots of the Finnish LL partners (Aalto University) in the Finnish construction sector.
1. The Finnish pilot with the video annotation tool AchSo! in the construction sector
As we have been informed some time ago, our Finnish partners in the Aalto University have joined in an interesting pilot project in the Finnish construction sector. The Finnish Construction Trade Union, the company Skanska and the regional vocational colleges in Pirkanmaa have agreed on a joint pilot with focus on workplace learning. The main thrust of the pilot is to equip apprentices and trainees from vocational schools with tablet-PCs so that they can document their workplace learning with the help of videos. From the perspective of LL project it is interesting that the pilot project is using the AchSo! video annotation tool to edit the videos as documents on learning progress.
2. The recent article in the trade union journal “Rakentaja” as an interesting interim report
One week ago or colleagues from Aalto sent us a copy of an article on this pilot project in the trade union journal “Rakentaja” (= Builder). The article – written by an independent freelance journalist – gave firstly a comprehensive picture of the pilot project and its background. But – what was even more important – it gave a lively picture, how apprentices, skilled workers and vocational school teachers perceived the implementation of the pilot. We got positive statements from a trainee from vocational school (2nd year) and apprentice taken over to the company (3rd year) how they can use the tablets and make appropriate videos. An older skilled worker – who had served as cameraman when the youngsters were not available – confirmed that this tool is working. The vocational school representatives were positive about the pilot concept and of its impact on the reputation of the construction trades. And the regional trade union representative was happy about the impact of the pilot on strengthening the role of workplace learning in construction sector.
3. The educational policy context and the labour market context behind the current 2+1 model
The article also gave some insights into the changing educational policy context in the Finnish vocational education and training (VET). In the years 1999-2000 the duration of school-based vocational education was extended to three years. In this way the authorities wanted to accommodate a period of ca. 1 year workplace learning (as trainees) during the final year (the original 2+1 model). However, in this model the workplace learners had the status of external trainees (and were perceived as ‘visitors’ at the construction sites). The current 2+1 model is promoting a transition in which the workplace learning of the third year is based on apprentice training contracts. In such an arrangement apprentices have already entered employment contracts with the company. Yet, from the educational point of view the vocational colleges have the responsibility to supervise and monitor the progress of workplace learning (with the help of mentors appointed by the companies). In this context the use of the video annotation tool is considered as an important improvement to such supervision and monitoring.
The company Skanska and the trade union have emphasised the importance of such enhancement of workplace learning. This is closely related to the demographic change – the wave of retirement of older skilled workers and the necessity to pass the experience to a lower number of newcomers. From this point of view the lively descriptions of the cooperation of young apprentices and their older colleague when preparing the videos is inspiring.
4. The limits of the pilot and the potential benefits of other LL tools
As things stand now, the pilot is focusing on the use of AchSo! in the documentation of learning experiences. The journalist makes the point that the apprentices are not exactly using their tablet-PCs to support their occupational work. This picture could be changed with the help of the Learning Toolbox, once we get into the pilots in the field. And – taking this into account – it is inspiring to note that in other articles of that issue of “Rakentaja” there are several references to the use ICT, web resources and digital media – both in the context of construction work and design process as well as in the work of the trade union. The awareness is already there, let us see what the next phases of the LL project could offer.
More blogs to come …