Virtual Apprenticeships – Welcome to the Covid-19 era!
Corona pandemic, the greatest upheaval of modern times has undoubtedly brought the world to a near standstill.
Social distancing, Lockdowns, Quarantine, and ‘Work/ Study from Home’ etc. are the order of the day. This we are told is the “New Normal”.
Social distancing has left us all with no option, but to virtualize many of our activities into a contact-less environment, to avoid covid-19 infection risks.
Human beings however are not going to be bogged down by the Corona Challenge!
Instead, we become more adaptive and discover ingenious ways to counter the ever-evolving landscape and find innovative solutions to adjust to it.
The move from ‘Traditional Classroom or Workplace-based Learning’ into an ‘Online, Virtual or Remote learning’ is one path-breaking change we are embracing; allowing us to work from the safety and comfort of our homes.
Also, as part of these new ways of learning and working, ‘In-Person Apprenticeships’ had to make the inevitable transition to ‘Virtual Apprenticeships’. It’s a novel innovative concept and is slowly becoming a reality.
Effectiveness of Virtual Apprenticeships for Employers and Employees
Let’s examine how effective Virtual Apprenticeships are, and how they deliver value to both employers and employees.
So, what are Virtual Apprenticeships?
Virtual Apprenticeships are ‘Earn while you remotely Learn Apprenticeships programs’ specially designed and tailored for the Covid-19 era.
Most of the introduction and familiarization of the work content is done virtually i.e. online. This is done using the computer, smartphone, and internet.
Actual work practice requiring physical presence in the real physical workplace is sparingly done, mostly towards the end, depending on the role or occupation. However, the key thing to note is, although remote, you still get paid to learn and work.
Isn’t that extremely flexible, fun, and exciting?
Covid-19 and Virtual Apprenticeships
Covid-19 and Virtual Apprenticeships with their radically new approach have introduced an effective alternative to ‘In-person’ Apprenticeships. The person i.e. the Apprentice, no longer to be physically present at the work-place to learn the skills or trade.
Instead, these Online-job training and Virtual Apprenticeship programs culminate into industry-standard credentials for the employees, leading them to a career of their choice. All without the need for expensive and time-consuming degree studies!
With Virtual Apprenticeships, the apprentices can learn and up-skill the craft or work remotely, from the safety and comfort of their home.
Also, in many cases, you can piggy-back this home-based learning experience with ‘Work from Home’ career opportunities. Then, continue to work on a ‘Virtual Platform’ with just your computer or smartphone, online.
So, What Are the Occupations Most Suitable for Virtual Apprenticeships?
Highly technical occupations that require virtually no direct human interaction; which can be taught and learned online are the most suited to Virtual Apprenticeships. These are typically occupations hinging on Information Technology and Telecom
Great examples of these occupations are:
These occupations are ideal because they can be performed remotely, with just virtual interactions.
What Occupations and Trades Are Not Well Suited for Virtual Apprenticeships?
Crafts, Trades, and human-intensive & human x machine interactive occupations, where the physical presence of the Apprentice is inevitable at the actual workplace are typically not a great match.
Examples of occupations ill-suited for virtual apprenticeships are:
These occupations are not the best candidates because there is no way of understanding and practicing the trade or craft without physical interaction or machinery at the actual workplace.
What Are the Infrastructure Requirements for Virtual Apprenticeships?
Technical Infrastructure is the back-bone of Virtual Apprenticeships.
A computer loaded with software, a smartphone, excellent internet data connectivity, is the typical basic infrastructure needed.
How Do Virtual Apprenticeships Work?
It works exactly in the same manner as ‘In-person’ Apprenticeships, except that there are two components to it.
In other words, it is a layered and blended approach between ‘remote learning’ and ‘physical workplace practice.’ This depends on the occupation or role requirements.
Let’s examine the ‘remote or online learning’ aspect first.
Virtual Apprenticeships commence with you, the apprentice first getting familiarized with the skill, craft, or work – online.
So this upskilling curriculum needs to be well designed to ensure that all ‘non-workplace’ related learning that can be done entirely online is segregated, demarcated clearly and front-loaded.
Online Learning or E-Learning come in these forms:
- Online Curriculum
- Downloadable Training Videos
- Knowledge Sharing forums
- Apprenticeship Management Training Systems
Whatsapp, Youtube, and Zoom Video calls will undoubtedly supplement all the above for discussions, e-meets, and knowledge sharing.
This online work acquaintance is then followed up with a well-blended shadowing work practice under a mentor or trainer.
This takes place in the real industry setting i.e. the actual workplace, to complete the on-the-job training and Apprenticeship programs.
Benefits of Virtual Apprenticeships
- Extremely flexible
Being an excellent ‘remote learning and working’ process, it gives extreme flexibility for both the Apprentice and the Employer.
For the Apprentice, it frees you from the hassles of tiresome commutes to the office or workplace, besides saving huge daycare expenses for working parents; offering a perfect ‘work-life’ balance.
For the Employer, you don’t need a special training center set up for Virtual Apprenticeships due to ‘remote and online learning’; thus optimizing ‘expensive’ office space costs.
This is the biggest plus of Virtual Apprenticeships!
- Increased access
Virtual Apprenticeships expand access to the general masses. Being mostly ‘remote learning’ it is especially suited to persons with physical disabilities; since it obviates the need to physically move and be present at the actual workplace.
Similar benefits also accrue to pregnant women and the caregiving mothers of young ones.
- Saves time and costs
Virtual Apprenticeships if effectively designed and implemented, offers the lowest hiring, training, and retention costs for employers, giving them the proverbial ‘value for money’.
Employers can have leaner HR teams; Training time and costs are optimized because most of the introduction and familiarization is completed online.
Also, more importantly, being flexible, the Apprentices and Employees are extremely happy, and self-motivated with high levels of commitment.
The average cost per employee is bound to dip, increasing the employer’s ROI, profitability, and growth!
If properly designed and implemented, Virtual Apprenticeships can be a true win-win for both – the employer and employee!
What are the limitations of Virtual Apprenticeships?
- Technical snags
Snags in the technical infrastructure required for effective online learning can severely impair Virtual Apprenticeships. E.g. Weak Internet or data connectivity can be a severe impediment and an unnecessary distraction, say in the middle of a ‘live – online’ class.
- Change in Mindset, Adaptability, and Extreme discipline
Although flexible, a change in the mindset, adaptability, and extreme discipline are the seeds for successful ‘remote learning and working’ Apprenticeships.
The Apprentice has the added responsibility to prepare and work on a regular schedule; exactly similar to ‘In-person’ Apprenticeships.
Both, the online trainer and student have to adapt to the realm of new technologies and methodologies involving ‘non-classroom’ training and mentoring.
This could be extremely daunting and challenging, especially for the ‘non-tech savvy’ students or trainers!
Hence, adapting to the new ways of learning and teaching is extremely critical to the success of Virtual Apprenticeships.
- Improper segregation of online curriculum
Most Virtual Apprenticeships fail because the curriculum does not clearly demarcate between what can be learned or done remotely, versus what cannot.
Also, being a blended learning model, there needs to be a seamless transition between ‘online learning’ and ‘real-life’ interactive work practices at the ‘actual workplace’.
Unless these drawbacks are addressed properly, Virtual Apprenticeships may not be effective!
Virtual Apprenticeships are the Future of OJT for Many Occupations
Undoubtedly, while the Corona conundrum is perceived as a threat by many, we at OJT.com view it as a ‘not to be missed’ Virtual Apprenticeships opportunity.
OJT – Reinventing Apprenticeships – From ‘In-person’ to Virtual Apprenticeships!