The impact of competency based progression on apprentice electricians

2017-02-21T23:02:21Z (GMT) by Sizer, Suzanne
This study examines the impact of a competency based progression approach to the training of apprentice electricians in Victoria. An expert panel report on Australian apprenticeship reform, (McDowell et al., 2011) recommended a move away from time served to competency based progression and completion. These recommendations were intended to improve apprentice completion rates, and included an increased focus on foundation skills, a mentoring arrangement, and competency based progression for the apprentice. E-Oz Energy Skills Australia is the energy sectors' industry skills council. This organisation was charged with the development and implementation of a competency based progression pilot project to implement the recommended apprenticeship reforms in the electrical trade. The research examines the pilot project from the apprentice perspective, using a small group of apprentice electricians participating in the project in Victoria. The research found there were four main factors which affected the apprentices' progression. These factors include the apprentices' motivation to complete their qualification, their entry level of literacy and numeracy skills, their maturity in taking responsibility for their own learning, which leads to an ability to progress in a blended learning environment, and the level of support or mentoring they require and are able to access. The research found the apprentices were motivated to successfully complete their qualification at their own pace, but a lack of flexibility within the Registered Training Organisations meant they were unable to progress based on their developing level of competency. Apprentices within the research criticised the blended learning resources developed for the pilot as not being up to the quality standard they expected. Furthermore, the mentoring provided by the project was generally insufficient to allow relationships to be formed; therefore the usefulness of the mentoring was limited. However the pilot project provided an excellent assessment of the apprentices' literacy and numeracy skills on entry, and was useful to assist them to achieve and maintaining the required level of these skills. Results from the research indicate that although the concept of competency based progression is based on skill rather than time, time is still an important factor in the training of apprentices. The research also identified a lack of social learning when a blended learning model is introduced, leading to a lack of peer mentoring support. This area will require further research.