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Apprenticeship programs = Learning … Your way.

 What was your favorite class in school?  Was it a logical class like Math? How about a subject more loose like English Poetry?  Maybe you liked active classes like Physical Education. Whatever your preferred subject was, I’m sure the preference wasn’t just because of the topics covered, but the teacher who was guiding your learning experience and how they did it.  I know for me, I thought that math was my favorite subject in school because my teacher was very accomplished at what she did and she cared about her students learning the information. She was effective because she would change how the learning took place.  You might have had a similar experience like mine. What is interesting is that different classes appeal to different types of people. You might be the type of person that really likes to geek out on the facts and details of a subject. Maybe books aren’t your preferred style because you learn best by doing.  Neither of those ways of learning are bad at all, they are just different.
The best learning takes place when the teaching does not just use one approach, but when there are several different learning styles covered.  Different people have all sorts of opinions when it comes to learning styles, however I will break down the four basic ones that make the most sense to me and hopefully you will agree with me.  The mastermind behind these learning styles is none other than Neil D. Fleming. He created a system called VARK. It stands for Visual Aural Reading/Writing Kinesthetic.  Other people have different classifications, however I believe that VARK encompasses the 4 main ones.

VISUAL

Visual encompasses graphic illustrations of what could have been described in words.  There are many things like charts, graphs, illustrations, and maps that fit into this category.  It uses shapes, designs and patterns to be called into this field. Unlike some that would think so, visual does not include photographs of reality, videos, movies, or powerpoint presentations.
Visual learners fit into an apprenticeship program through a variety of different ways. First of all, a large portion of knowing what to do is by looking at blueprints.  They map out exactly what is to be done for the project. During classroom instruction, there are drawings of theory and many other drawings to illustrate what the instructor is speaking about.

AURAL

Listening is a skill that not everybody has since a lot of communication is done via an electronic device through texting, email or chat, however even those who might not consider themselves aural, benefit in ways that hopefully will be more clear after this explanation.  If you benefit from aural, then it would be through hearing. I know that seems self-explanatory, however what we hear can come from many different things. The standard way to hear that most people would think about include listening to a lecture, the radio or just a friend/colleague.  There are a couple more sneaky ways that we learn aurally and that would include email and “talking things through.” I know several people, including my wife, who need to process and learn information by talking about it. By hearing themselves, they learn. Email is unique because although it is not usually heard, most emails are formatted to be more chat-style based with non-formal language to express the information.  As far as that goes, I would even include blogging because most blogs are written in the perspective of the writer and quite non-formal.
If you are an aural learner, please don’t feel left out if you are considering apprenticing.  Most classroom instruction will be aurally and there is a blend of lecture as well as hands-on instruction.  Also, when you are on the job, there is the journeyman telling you how to do things as well as an opportunity to talk things out to yourself while working.  One thing that most people don’t think about is how there are sounds associated with work and how when you do something right, you will hear the sound of it.  Example…The sound of you nailing in a Carlon box sounds different when you hit the nail squarely verses you almost miss it and it pings a bit more.

READ/WRITE

This specific type of learning is what most traditional school is based on. These learners enjoy school specifically when it comes to reading and writing words.  What things excite this group? Glad you asked! They would love academic literature including reports, assignments, essays, and manuals. These learners could spend most of their day on Wikipedia and Googling web pages just learning by reading.  You might not think that there are too many of these people around, but pull out your phone and go down your contact list. See how many of your friends/family learn this way and you might be surprised.
This type of learning is most heavily utilized while you are enrolled in the apprenticeship program and not as much after becoming a Journeyman unless you need to reference codes.  One thing that a person strong in this learning style could do is become a Master tradesman or pursue NICET or ASSE certification which would add value to you as a worker.

KINESTHETIC

Reality. That one word defines a kinesthetic learner.  Whether it is watching a video that is realistic, a simulation for real life, or actually doing something and learning, they all fall into this modality.  If you are this type of learner, you would much rather experience something yourself and learn then by hearing somebody else tell you about their experience, reading about it in a book or watching somebody draw a diagram of how a phone would relate to learning from this experience.
This modality is probably utilized the most in the trades because so much of what is learned is done on the job.  As I was going through college learning to be a pilot, lots of things I learned in the classroom didn’t make sense until I actually was flying the airplane and then when I could actually feel how the wind affected the airplane as I was turning or what it felt like to trust the instruments when you couldn’t see outside.  Trades do the same thing. You get to handle each thing that you install in a building and when there is that practical experience, it will help things work for you, if you learn best this way.

TO SUM THINGS UP

All styles are represented here.  Instead of just trying to learn a bunch of information and then cramming for tests, the information is built up over a period of about 2-4 years and then there is a test that makes sure you know what you already have learned through your preferred learning style.  I would highly suggest you check this apprenticeship thing out and if you ask me, eventually more jobs should move the direction of apprenticeship/directed learning because it just makes sense..for you, for me and for employers. Let me hop off my apprenticeship soap box and tell you that nothing is quite like working on a building when there is nothing there but a bunch of dirt/mud doing the underground work, then putting in the concrete, framing the walls, running sprinkler pipes, sheetrocking the walls, piping the showers and toilets, pulling the feeder wire or putting in the cabinets.  There are so many trades available, that it would be difficult to cover them all that goes into a new construction project. Some are called the “skilled” trades and others are not. The big difference is that “skilled” trades have certification requirements and usually there is an apprenticeship involved. If you are thinking about apprenticing, read this first to gain more understanding to know where you would benefit the most.
If you want to learn more about what style of gathering/sharing information, check out the VARK website questionnaire as well as the VARK website.  Cheers to learning more about how you relate to the world!

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