I walked into ETI Director David Nott’s office with the very last of hope I could muster. Unfortunately, the past four years as an apprentice has depleted most of my hope that the status quo would change. Within a few minutes of a two-hour meeting with David, my thoughts began to change.
I was not expecting a willingness to be heard or to have any of my suggestions considered. I slowly began to understand that the person on the other side of the desk had similar objectives and desires as I did: to create an educational facility we could all be proud of.
Hearing the Director’s acknowledgment that there are issues and areas of concern in the way the ETI conducts business was refreshing. It was the first time in three years that I heard a sense of accountability from the institution.
Nott did not spend much time speaking the obvious. On the contrary, it was all about the changes that will be taking place.
One of the changes will modify the instructor-to-apprentice ratio. Any given class will have a minimum of 12 and maximum of 20 students per class. The objective is to have no more than 350 apprentices attending class at any given night.
Additionally, a second instructor will be added to all major labs to improve lectures and hands-on instruction. Not only did he have the apprenticeship in mind but that of Journeymen as well. By moving all fourth-year classes to day school it was possible to create classroom space for Journeyman-level classes such as Foremanship to be taught during the evening.
Other key factors Nott plans to improve are accountability and communication. Long gone will be the days of reaching an automated operator when calling the ETI office. He plans to eliminate the current phone system and hire two full-time staff members to answer calls.
A 24-hour response standard will be the new norm. This standard ensures that a member’s request for information or to speak to a specific staff member will be completed within 24 hours. He has also appointed day and night Senior Instructors specific to classifications (I/W, Sound, Transportation, etc.).
The implementation of only two contact email addresses for Senior Instructors will alleviate apprentices falling between the cracks or just simply not having their emails read. Day school apprentices will be able to contact senior instructors at firstname.lastname@example.org and night school apprentices at email@example.com
The most impressive change will be a technological one: Hybrid Lecturing. I was shown a classroom that is being outfitted with this new technology. Apprentices will soon be able to attend class in two ways: in-class or online. This hybrid system will give apprentices the option on any given class night to attend class from home or at the ETI.
During our walkthrough of the ETI I asked Nott what one thing he would like me to relay to the apprenticeship. His response surprised me.
David said he gives tours of the ETI to influential individuals. They are very impressed with our advanced facility and the modern technology, but he is embarrassed to show them our classrooms. The sight of plastic chairs and picnic tables are an eyesore, as are the marks of boot scuffs on the back wall. He told me he would love to purchase comfortable seats and individual desks. All he needs is an act of good faith from all of us that we will respect and take care of our institution.
I choose to believe that the change we have all been wanting for is here, and we will be seeing it take place soon. Yes, the culture is changing at the ETI. Will we as an apprenticeship be changing with it as well?
President, Apprentice Council
5th Year I/W Apprentice