Developing True Craft Professionals Starts with Training
By Scottie Smith, Welding Instructor at Northwest Florida State College, from NCCER
There are numerous factors that contribute to an individual becoming a craft professional. Although, experience is probably the one that comes to mind the most, there are also elements that can be taught in a classroom, such as knowledge and employability skills.
A lot of people can weld, but not all of them are professional welders. A professional welder has both knowledge and skills, which he or she has refined over time. As an instructor, finding a curriculum that focuses on both knowledge and skills is important. The NCCER curriculum provides this and is set up in a manner that assists instructors in verifying that students have what they need before they move on in their training. To ensure my students read the chapters and gain knowledge about the craft, I require that they to answer the review questions at the end of each chapter as homework before we discuss the chapter in class. On the day I teach a chapter, I check that each student has completed the review questions, and I go over the answers before starting my lecture. By using the review questions in this manner, I notice that my students are more involved in the lectures and their test scores are higher at the end of the chapter. This shows me that they are retaining what they are learning.
Although work ethic may seem like a trait that someone simply has or doesn’t have, we find that it can be taught as part of employability skills through explanation and implementation. This is one of the most important traits for any craft professional. Among other things, having a good work ethic means showing up every day, being punctual, staying on task and using good time management. Our welding program at Northwest Florida State College is set up to teach the importance of this. For example, we have a strict absenteeism policy where if a student misses more than 10 percent of scheduled class time, then he or she is automatically withdrawn from the welding program. To me, there is little difference between an excused and an unexcused absence; an absence is an absence. We also count tardiness as an absence. Our students understand that craft professionals go to work every day, on time and without excuses.
We hear a lot about the lack of skilled craft professionals in the workforce today. I believe that if training programs raise the bar and expectations for their students, then students will be more adequately prepared to enter the workforce as true professionals. After all, anything worth doing is worth doing right and professionally!