How mature-age students are getting back to study without “going to school”
With employees at work on shifts and based in many different locations, how can an employer help them gain the qualifications they need to add value to the business? The power utility Essential Energy (formerly Country Energy) has a solution. Essential Energy is the state-owned corporation responsible for providing essential electricity services for regional (non-metro) areas in the state of NSW, which encompasses more than 1,500 communities.
Essential Energy has 60 senior technical staff attending classes in the nationally recognised Diploma of Electrical Supply Industry – Power Systems by distance learning “ modern-style”. The students join a weekly ‘live’ lecture through their computers, and in the ‘virtual room’ with around 20 others they can talk and text the lecturer directly, in real time, as each session progresses. They can also communicate directly with fellow students. Students based in the south east of the state are in the same class as their colleagues hundreds of kilometres away on the central coast. There are students from Western Power in WA joining the classes and they are over 3,000 kilometres away in a different time zone. It all works extremely well.
The qualification is being delivered by the Engineering Institute of Technology (EIT), an Australian-owned private training provider. The EIT teaches a large range of engineering and technical courses to several hundred students. The sophisticated distance learning model used by the EIT includes live lectures, remote laboratories, remote desktop sharing and other techniques designed to make the learning experience comparable to traditional delivery, and often better. One major benefit is that the students have access to subject matter experts who would otherwise not be available for them in the traditional system.
Some of Essential Energy’s technical staff have been tackling the specialised elective Units in the 3 ‘streams’ of the diploma qualification (design, testing, or system operation). Others are studying the core Units. Most need to formalise much of the on-the-job experience that they have already gained, or move to the next step beyond their trade qualifications. The qualification is ideal for those who want to move into a para-professional role with greater challenge and perhaps responsibility for supervising others.
A spokesperson from Essential Energy advised that they have a robust system that allows for the critical on-the-job observation and tasks to be completed under the guidance of qualified supervisors. This is coordinated by the training provider. Feedback from the students has been very favorable, and plans are already in place to extend the program next year. It saves them travel time, it can be easier to fit into home and family life, and it is cost effective for the employer.
Thankfully, at least for this Essential Energy program, the days are gone when “online training” meant a disconnected, one-way experience for the learner.
ABOUT THE EIT
The EIT was established by the founder of IDC Technologies, Dr Steve Mackay. In the last three years EIT has been steadily expanding the range of courses it offers internationally via distance learning using the latest technologies to provide students with an engaging and interactive experience. IDC Technologies has been providing high quality training for 20 years on an international basis from offices around the world. In the past few years tens of thousands of engineers, technicians and scientists have attended IDC workshops. IDC provides short workshops, on site training, conferences, masters series, and publishes a comprehensive range of practical manuals and texts.