In February 2016, MSLETB met with DSP to explore ways to refer clients who had low levels of education or very little formal education. Through discussion, it emerged that there were very few courses for men who wanted a job. They didn’t want to study or return to education. If this group were to be engaged, it would have to be a ‘Hands On’ practical course.
The Adult Learning and Education Centre looked at apprenticeship courses at Level 5/6 that were offered in Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim. It was felt that many who applied for apprenticeships didn’t have enough grounding in maths to complete the apprenticeship phases successfully. Level 5 and 6 was a step too far for many who left school with little or no formal education.
We decided to bridge the gap between what was offered at Level 5/6 and to offer a pre-apprenticeship level. Many learners were afraid of maths but were interested in practical subjects so ALEC combined Maths QQI level 3 (3N0929) with Electrical skills QQI Level 3 (3N0527).
We started this in April 2016 and ran it until July 2016 for 6 hours per week Mondays 2-5pm and Thursdays 2-5pm for 14 weeks and based it on the ITABE model. We aimed at recruiting 6-8 men but sixteen men signed up. Twelve completed the course with two gaining employment during the course.
The class combined Maths and Electrical skills rather than having set times and days for each module. Sometimes Electrical skills were first up, followed by maths and on other days the reverse happened, depending on the particular objectives for the tutorial.
Students learned the basic concepts of electricity by taking a plug apart. Another lesson given was where two lemons, a few coins and a few nails were connected together to make a simple ‘lemon battery’ which in turn was used to power a simple kitchen clock/timer. (The tutor got a clap when the clock was seen to be working from ‘lemon power’). This simple experiment appeared to captivate students and the range of questions arising from this set the tone for the course.
Electronic kits were used and allowed the students to test different circuits that were drawn and discussed on the whiteboard. In addition to the electronic kit, students were shown a number of experiments from an ‘electricity and magnetism’ kit. This kit demonstrated the key role in /electricity and electronics.
On the maths side, there were lots of discussions on topical items, economy, budgets etc. while data collection was a practical experience where students carried out a survey of cars and the findings were examined with great interest.
Every student was very interested in electrical skills so attendance was guaranteed in the class from the outset. Students gained confidence; there was energy in the class with many questions being asked. There was integration between different nationalities with everyone helping each other. By combining subjects, boredom and lack of interest was never a problem.
Ten of the twelve have gone on to Level 4 electronics.