These days, anyone who wants to pursue a career in the construction industry must become familiar with the technology that helps contractors perform better, safer and faster. Computers can be found on every jobsite, in contractors’ offices and in the vehicles of key employees who are seldom in the same place for an extended period of time.
Just like another tool on their belt, technology is a part of the daily jobs of every construction employee—from carpenters and electricians to crane operators and sheet metal fabricators.
Construction education and training initiatives are not immune to the rapid advances in technology. Many industry training programs now explore the benefits of blended training, which combines online training with classroom or lab training.
In 2007, Associated Builders and Contractors’ (ABC) Iowa Chapter implemented blended training in its statewide apprenticeship training program for the electrical, HVAC, plumbing and carpentry trades. More than 600 apprentices transitioned from traditional training to blended training utilizing Contren Connect, an online supplement to the Contren Learning Series curriculum developed through a partnership between the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) and Pearson Education, Inc.
One benefit of the program is that the apprentices only have to attend weeknight classes for 26 weeks instead of 38 weeks under the traditional curriculum. They also can do about one-third of the classroom training online, directed by an instructor and completed at the leisure of each individual apprentice.
From an employer’s perspective, fewer weeknight classes means employees leave work early less frequently. In addition, blended training reduces the amount of fuel, mileage and maintenance for company vehicles driven by apprentices.
According to Pearson Education, the Contren Connect blended training approach forces students to practice through online exercises and automatically scored quizzes. Concept checks and review questions offer immediate feedback and take students directly back to the portion of the text they didn’t understand. Meanwhile, a progress tracker enables instructors to view students’ progress and scores. Instructors also can highlight important concepts and post comments throughout the course’s e-Book to use as a visual aid during lectures.
Finally, blended training gives apprenticeship training providers the flexibility to start programs at any time of the year, anywhere in the state. Due to blended training, and the U.S. Department of Labor’s allowance of up to one half of the required 144 hours per year to be completed online, ABC’s Iowa Chapter is no longer limited to offering training from September to May—a major benefit for apprentices and employers.
In the past, thousands of apprentices graduated from training programs without ever touching a computer. But, as they developed within their company from a crew leader to a foreman, superintendent or estimator, they were expected to know how to email, type reports and submit change orders. Now, with blended training, apprentices are armed with the technological tools that help reduce the learning curve and accelerate the path toward promotion.