5c - Competence and learning

 What is competence?
When an apprentice goes through vocational training, the purpose is to become proficient at a specific trade. You could also say that the apprentice develops competence within a certain profession. The apprentice develops his/her own competencies by acquiring more knowledge (especially in school) and by acquiring new skills (especially at the workplace).

There are different kinds of competencies:
  • Professional 
  • General 
  • Personal
A professional competency could be being able to choose and use different kinds of tools correctly.

A general competency could be being able to make calculations and write texts.

A personal competency could be being able to interact with colleagues and customers in a positive way.
 Training spiral
The apprentice becomes gradually more skilled, as he/she goes through the training programme. The point at which the apprentice becomes manpower equal to that of a skilled worker, depends on trade and training conditions. But near the end of the training programme, the apprentice is close to the level of a skilled worker.

The development from apprentice to skilled worker can be described via a spiral model: In the course of the training programme, the apprentice moves from being "on the sidelines" to "becoming an essential employee", on equal terms with the other skilled workers.

In the beginning of the training, the apprentice is mostly "on the sidelines" (The outer circle in the spiral). This means that the apprentice observes, helps out and does routine tasks. The risk of drop-out is high during this period. Many routine tasks, for example, can make the apprentice lose motivation.

Further on in the training, the apprentice has developed more competencies and receives more responsibility (moves further into the spiral). The tasks are more complicated and harder to do. Therefore, there is also a growing demand for the apprentice's competence development.

Near the end of the training, the apprentice is closer to a skilled level. The apprentice becomes a part of the team, on equal terms with the skilled workers (the apprentice has moved into the center of the spiral).
 Learning styles
You may know the expression "learning style". It is thought that people have different ways of learning, and that each person has a preferred style.

Often the individual's preferred way of learning (his/her learning style) is also the most effective way of learning.
  • Some people learn best by reading a text, others would rather hear a lecture.
  • Some want to try the device right away, others want to read the instruction manual first.
  • Some people want the whole work process described first, and then the individual steps. Others want it the other way around.
  • And then there are the people who prefer to work alone, in contrast to those who want to discuss solutions with others.
Be aware that apprentices also have their own preferred way of learning. Some learn best with their ears, others with their eyes, etc.

Your job as a trainer is to observe the apprentice and make it possible for him/her to learn, in a way that matches his/her preferred learning style. Later, it can be relevant to challenge the apprentice with other ways of learning.

Which learning style is the trainer talking about here?

And how can he make sure that the new engineer driver understands what he means?

Throughout the last 30 years or so, several researchers have been occupied with new concepts of intelligence. It is now recognised that there are several types of intelligence.

Click on the picture to the right for enlargement of a diagram that is inspired by the researcher Howard Gardner. Gardner believes that there are at least 7 types of intelligence:
  • Logical-mathematical intelligence
  • Musical intelligence
  • Linguistic (language) intelligence
  • Spatial intelligence
  • Bodily-kinesthetic (physical) intelligence
  • Intrapersonal (philosophical) intelligence
  • Interpersonal (social) intelligence
Learning styles are closely connected to the intelligences, but are not the same thing.

One learning style isn't better than the other. Most of us have one or more preferred learning style, but this can change. For example, when we are in new situations or settings.
 Apprentices' own ideas

 Many companies see apprentices as a "breath of fresh air", who they wouldn't want to do without.

Young people see things differently, because they - for better or worse - aren't so experienced.

Apprentices often bring new ideas because they:
  • Have their "finger on the pulse"
  • Know how things are done in other companies (via school friends)
  • Question your statements of "we usually..."
  • Know the newest developments in the trade, through school.
So be curious, when the apprentice asks questions or makes suggestions. Maybe there is a "goldmine" hidden in a "wild" idea!


5 - The learning process