How to integrate Essential Skills into technical training

Technical trainers can increase the success rates of apprentices by integrating Essential Skills like reading and numeracy into the technical training itself.

In "Why you should integrate Essential Skills into technical training," we looked at how apprentices use Essential Skills in technical training.

Now we'll look at how technical trainers can integrate Essential Skills support into technical training curriculum:

1. Address Essential Skills gaps

Identify the apprentices who have difficulties with literacy or numeracy. They need to be at a specific skill level in order to succeed in technical training. The larger the gap between their reading and numeracy skill level and the skill level needed to pass technical training, the more likely they are to fail. If you include Essential Skills instruction in your materials, you will help to decrease this skills gap.

2. Create a cognitive sequence

When planning your lessons, decide on a sequence of steps for what you are going to teach. For example, if you are going to teach a lesson on calculating weight loads in pounds, you need to decide what reading and numeracy skills are involved, as well as which formulas are used. If the apprentice needs to refer to a table or drawing to get information to complete a series of calculations, then teaching the apprentice how to find this information will be the step to complete before calculations are made. This sequence will become a step-by-step strategy that apprentices can use to complete similar tasks and questions in the future.

3. Identify cognitive hurdles and povide learning solutions

When an apprentice has given the incorrect answer to a question, find out what steps the apprentice took to get to the answer. Ask the apprentice to talk you through the steps. If the apprentice used the wrong number in a calculation because he or she has difficulty finding numbers in a table or drawing, provide more practice with using documents. This is one way to complete an informal skills assessment that will help you determine what skills need more practice or development.

When setting up a worksheet, think about where apprentices tend to have difficulty. These are called cognitive hurdles. Identifying the cognitive hurdles allows you to prepare ahead for apprentices having difficulty. You may stop and teach a specific point that you know is difficult for some apprentices or decide to develop a worksheet that gives practice with a specific skill such as decimals of a foot.

Taking an integrated approach to teaching by including Essential Skills in your technical training instruction will help those struggling with foundational skills to learn strategies that they can use to be more independent learners. It will also increase their chances of success at exams and in technical training.

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