The following is written by George Trotter, instructor in Industrial Maintenance Technologies.

I think my teaching philosophy has come to reflect the idea that education, especially technical education, is the process of delivering the principles governing our vocation in a manner and sequence that can be digested by the student until they not only have mastered the ability to apply the process and plug the correct values into the right formulae but they have come to an understanding of the nature and heart of the subject and how it adds value to them and those around them.

As a master electrician and electrical educator for over 30 years I’ve experienced OJT (on the job training) and the more structured classroom/lab training setting. There are advantages and disadvantages to each but in the “long run” the latter is a much superior approach.

The OJT format does provide classroom time that can be well organized and professional but often instructed by people that don’t have that fire for professional development in them. The students are often employees that have already spent eight hours at work and are not at their best. There can be a lack of commitment to the instruction by the administrators, employers and teaching staff. The actual work experiences of the students while they are on the job may not add to their body of knowledge and they often don’t see a connection between what they cover in class and what they need to know in the field. They gain little view of the goal of their training and therefore have a big disconnect between work and the class room. It is however cheaper than more formal instruction since they can work and go to class. It can be valuable if the employer can offer a wide variety of job experiences but this is rarely the case.

More formal community college technical paths of instruction can be much more beneficial in that it offers instruction paired with valuable lab experiences that reinforce classroom teaching. It provides a safer, cleaner environment for learning. It offers education with an eye on the student’s career path and documentation with certification of their progress. The sequence of topics is controlled to lend to the development of understanding. It does require a constant review of the material by the instructor to assure that they are clear, profitable and enhance the principles of the subject matter.

I’m now a strong proponent of the community college approach to a technical education.

One thought on “How the Community College Mission Trumps On-the-Job Training

  1. Wonderful points, George. I think you bring up some key concerns about technical education, particularly in regards to environment and clear instruction. The environment must mirror the true working setting while also helping the individual transition into their role as a student, prepared to learn new information. And while OJT is crucial, the ability of an instructor to clearly deliver the information to a variety of learners is irreplaceable.

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