The Upstate Electrical Apprenticeship Program wrapped up its Winter/Spring 2020 session in the classroom at the end of June with students barely missing a beat – despite the shutdown of Greenville Technical College’s campus in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic. With very little notice, the program’s three instructors were asked to shift from face-to-face teaching to an online platform.
“Fortunately, instructors and students alike were already using Greenville Tech’s Blackboard online platform for certain aspects of the program, which made the shift easier,” said Greenville Technical College’s Stephanie Gregg, training and development director for Industrial, Manufacturing and Trades.
For the final 16 weeks, students received “live” classroom instruction from their usual teachers from 6-9 p.m. every Tuesday evening via Blackboard Collaborate Ultra.
CarolinaPower’s Matt Johnson teaches Level 2 coursework, which focuses on code references, theories and formulas. Johnson completed an electrical apprenticeship program himself back in 2003 while working for sister company MetroPower in Georgia. He just completed his second year as an instructor for the Upstate Electrical Apprenticeship Program.
“I was skeptical about the distance learning at first, but it worked out well,” said Johnson. “I actually got more participation out of my 10 students because I had to ask more questions since I couldn’t see them while I was sharing my screen.”
Johnson went on to say, “I believe the online classes improved the way my students learned. When they are in front of the screen and watching me, they are in a quiet space and can really focus.”
Through technology – specifically the Zoom application – instructors were able to watch their students take the required tests at the end of each module, thus keeping the program on track. The biggest challenge was how to address the physical demonstration of skills – an essential requirement in finishing each course in the four-year program. Hands-on and practical application portions of the classes were conducted on campus following guidelines designed to provide the upmost safety for students and instructors.
“I imagine some of what we implemented this spring will remain in place long term. We discovered that certain things, like recording of classes, recording of tests, and instant grading, made us more efficient,” said Johnson.
Greenville Tech expects its campus to be open again by the time Fall classes start in mid-August.
About the Upstate Electrical Apprenticeship Program
The Upstate Electrical Apprenticeship Program is a partnership among six regional electrical contractors – CarolinaPower, Eldeco, Hayes & Lunsford, HR Allen, Walker & Whiteside, and Watson Electrical. Registered with the S.C. Department of Labor, the program is administered by the Associated Builders and Contractors of the Carolinas (ABC Carolinas) with classes held at Greenville Technical College.
The program utilizes Electrical curriculum developed by the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER). For the 2019-2020 session, there are 35 students in various stages of the curriculum – the biggest total enrollment to date.
Apprentices work full-time during the day, attending classes one evening per week at Greenville Tech. The comprehensive program teaches the skills for both construction and maintenance electricians. Participants begin with NCCER Core Curriculum – Introductory Craft Skills, followed by NCCER Electrical Level I to IV classes. Successful completers receive a certificate from Greenville Tech, a nationally recognized credential from NCCER, and a U.S. Department of Labor Apprentice Diploma.
The Upstate Electrical Apprenticeship Program has graduated 20 electricians since its inception in 2008. There were only three electrical contractors involved in the early years of the program – CarolinaPower, Hayes & Lunsford, and Walker & Whiteside. As the program gained momentum in recent years, Watson Electrical, Eldeco and HR Allen came on board.
To learn more about the Upstate Electrical Apprenticeship Program, contact Greenville Technical College’s Larry Roberson, Program Coordinator at Larry.Roberson@gvltec.edu or 864.250.8276.