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Cutting Class: Trades Training Shifts Online

Spending months away from work without income and away from one's family can often discourage apprenticeship training and skills upgrading.

This is why some training providers are experimenting with alternative programs that utilize technology to speed up learning and minimize time on campus.

And with such a huge looming demand for skilled labour, the industry is looking to remove any barrier it can to train up the next generation.

Victoria Pazukha, strategy and business development manager at SkillSource BC, spoke at the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum's annual conference in Vancouver about a new program with Thompson Rivers University (TRU).

With tens of billions in LNG work poised to go ahead, pipefitters have been identified as one of the most in-demand trades. To spur training of more pipefitters, TRU is testing out an accelerated steamfitter/pipefitter technical training program.

Pipefitters use blueprints and project specifications to construct and repair piping systems that carry water, steam, chemicals and fuel.

Steamfitters are typically pipefitters who specialize in pipe systems that move liquids or gases under high pressure.

Pazukha explained that the project uses blended learning to shorten classroom training time by around 25 per cent. Levels three and four for the trade to reach Red Seal certification have been reduced from 14 to 10 weeks.

This is possible by allowing students to learn much of the material online, at their own pace before attending the school. The school will then study its effect on completion rates and trade certification. Lindsay Langill, dean of TRU's School of Trades and Technology, noted that the new program, part of the federal government's Flexibility and Innovation in Apprenticeship Technical Training pilot project, recognizes the difference between academic learners and those who go in to vocational programs.

The program is currently recruiting students and expects its first cohort in November.

Saskatchewan Polytechnic has also been experimenting with alternative learning.

The school has four campuses in the province with specialized equipment for certain trades training only at some, often meaning travel for students.

This also means higher volume on some campuses the school wanted to ease.

John Erickson, Saskatchewan Polytechnic School of Construction dean also spoke at the conference, explaining that the school's blended learning efforts began back in 2008. The school was looking for a way to encourage those in the trades to upgrade their skills. But this meant being away from home and away from work for months. They started with an online carpenter upgrading program. Then construction electrician, industrial mechanic and automotive service technician were added.

The courses are open to trade qualifiers or apprentices who haven't succeeded on their journeyperson exam. They can apply at any time during the year except the summer break and have eight months to complete online training.

Online learning also saved the school's struggling parts person trade. All levels are now offered only online.

The school is branching out to offer all four levels of carpentry through a mixture of online and in-class learning.

Typically an apprentice would have to spend seven weeks on campus but with the hybrid model the theory portion would be done online at the student's own pace leaving only three weeks on campus doing practical learning in the shop.

Erickson said the school is expanding the hybrid program to include construction electrician, plumber, heavy duty equipment tech and truck and transport mechanic.

Part of the school's confidence to try the different approach came from a research paper that came out last year studying outcomes of a similar program in Ontario.

The study, Hybrid Delivery of College Instruction in the Skilled Trades: Supporting Apprenticeship Completion, examined the Industrial Mechanic Millwright apprentice program at two Ontario colleges and found that there were no significant differences in completion rates, grades, satisfaction and engagement levels, retention and completion between traditional teaching methods and a hybrid program.

The researchers from the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario concluded that by combining online courses for theory and in-class learning, hybrid apprenticeship programs may be able to achieve comparable outcomes to traditional in-class programs, but in approximately half the required time.

Journal of Commerce

Five Job Interview Secrets that Employers Don't Tell Candidates

Written by Peter Harris

I've had to hire team members for multiple roles over the years, and here are a few things I've learned from being on this side of the table that I didn't know when I was a candidate applying for jobs.

When an employer invites you to interview for a job, they already think you're qualified. Your resume and cover letter, job application or online profile have already told them that you have the skills, education and experience that they are looking for. If there is a phone interview, that is to pre-screen for these core skills before meeting you in person.

There's a good chance job is yours to lose

Because they need someone with your abilities, and the hiring process is taking up valuable time from their regular duties, hiring managers usually come into the face-to-face interview wanting to give you the job. Your challenge is to not change their minds.

Employers want to like you as a person

Since they already think you have the skills, and they want to hire you, what are most employers looking for in an interview? Frankly, they want to know if they like you and if you're going to fit in with the team. Once they hire you, you become someone they will have to see and speak to every day at work. They often end up spending more time with you than they do with their family or friends. So likeability really matters.

This is why coming up with clichéd answers to standard questions won't work. If you say that your biggest flaw is that you're a 'perfectionist workaholic,' the interviewer won't learn anything about the real you, and may be annoyed by your lack of sincerity.

Be personable, and talk in a friendly, conversational manner rather than simply quoting rehearsed answers. Try to build rapport with the interviewer.

Your looks really matter

How you look may determine whether or not you get the job. If you are dressed too casually, you may appear unprofessional or not serious about the role. If the company culture, or the hiring manager specifically has issues with multiple piercings, visible tattoos or odd facial hair, these may cost you the gig. If you appear nervous, sweaty and easily flustered, they might assume that you are not up for the job.

Dress up, wear clothes that are just a touch more formal than required on the day-to-day of the job. Arrive a little early so that you don't have to run to make it on time, and be at your calm and confident best.

You can be too eager for the role

While employers prefer candidates who are enthusiastic about working for them specifically, it is possible to be too enthusiastic.

Being overly needy makes you look bad and lowers your value as a potential hire. For example, if you're currently employed and you tell your interviewer that you could start work right away, this could hurt your chances. It indicates that you're willing to make an unprofessional exit from your present job by leaving them hanging with no notice. Is that the kind of person they would want on their team?

Although it's good to send a thank-you note after an interview, too much follow-up can kill your chances. Calling or emailing multiple times to check up on the status of your application will make you look desperate and will likely get on the employer's nerves.

The timing isn't fair

The rules of timing are not the same for employers and candidates. The employer can take as long as they need to call you for an interview after your application, to follow up with you after an interview and to make you an offer. This process almost always takes longer than they think it will for a myriad of behind-the-scenes reasons at the company. So when the employer says they'll make a decision by the end of the week, it may take up to a month.

On the other hand, if you're asked to send in references or samples of your work the next day. Do it the next day. Candidates have to be on time and true to their word. Also, you can wait too long to respond to a job offer. If you're waiting to hear from another company or using the offer to renegotiate with your current job, it can be rescinded. Employers are hiring because they have a talent gap. They need the help and don't have time for candidates who string them along. Job offers come with expiration dates.

Interview Tips: How to Prepare for the Most Common Types of Interview Questions

Written by Workopolis

In many ways, a job interview is like a date. After reviewing your cover letter and resume and determining you have enough of the skills and experience needed for the role, the hiring manager is interested in getting to know you a little better. Through a series of questions, interviewers want to learn about more than just your qualifications; they're also looking to understand your thought process and personality to determine if you're the right fit for their company. To uncover that, interviewers will typically use three types of interview questions:

  • Skills-based (hard & soft)
  • Behavioural
  • Situational

Let's take a closer look at what they are, why interviewers ask them and how you should answer them.

Skills-based questions

These are designed to uncover what hard skills (teachable skills that are easy to quantify — like technical skills) and soft skills (subjective skills that are hard to quantify; people or interpersonal skills — like teamwork) you can bring to the role.

Do you have experience designing and building pages in WordPress?

Have you managed a team before?

When answering skills-based questions, you want to inform the interviewer of how much experience you have and provide examples of projects you've worked on to illustrate the depth of your experience.

Talk about how you've executed on designs in WordPress, some of the challenges that you've faced and how you've resolved them — give them examples.  Tell them about the number of years you've been a manager and the number of people you've directly managed — or, if you haven't had a chance to be a people manager yet, how you've led a cross-functional team project in the past and how you successfully motivated the team to deliver the project to completion.

Behavioural questions

By asking behavioural questions, interviewers want to hear you talk about past experiences with the belief that this will indicate future performance. They want to understand whether you have the required skill or the right attitude.

Tell me about a time when you had to solve a difficult problem. What did you do? What was the outcome?

Can you think of a time when you were not successful? What was the situation? What did you learn from this experience?

A great approach to answering behavioural questions is to use the STAR method:

  • Begin by outlining the Situation you were facing
  • Move on to identifying the Task, or goal, you had to achieve
  • Then discuss the Actions you took to help achieve your goal
  • And finish with the end Result

Prepare by reviewing your past work experiences and lining up a few short stories that highlight positive qualities that you would bring to the organization. As an example:

S — We had an online tool that we were going to test by sending out an email to 5,000 users inviting them to try the tool out.

T — We hoped to see users engage with the tool, measuring engagement through the number of actions they took with it and through repeat visits.

A — We tested the tool and tested the email. Everything looked good and we deployed it to our 5,000 users, as planned.

R — After deployment, we realized that the page the tool sat on had no tracking so we could not measure engagement or repeat visits to the tool. After this, I designed a QA list which I shared with the team so we could make sure nothing like this was missed again. The QA list is now part of all projects on the team.

Situational questions

Similar to behavioural questions, situational questions can be hypothetical and are meant to provide insight into your analytical and problem-solving skills. They also give interviewers an opportunity to see how you handle problems on the spot, without a lot of preparation time.

You disagree with the way your supervisor wants to handle a problem. What would you do?

You have several projects on your plate with competing deadlines. How do you prioritize? What do you do?

Because these questions may be hypothetical, even if you haven't experienced the exact situation presented in the question, you must still provide a response. Remember, interviewers want to understand your approach, your thought process. So take your time and think it through. And then clearly take the interviewer through the steps you would take to solve the issue presented to you.

By understanding the motivations behind the types of interview questions being asked, you'll be better prepared to provide the information that interviewers are look for to determine whether you can contribute to their organization's success. So go out there and rock that next interview!

Eight Signs that Your Job Interview Isn't Going Very Well (and How You can Turn It Around)

Written by Peter Harris

For many, the worst part of the job search is that awkward silence after you've had a job interview when all you can do is wait for the phone to ring. Have you ever thought that you absolutely nailed the interview and still not gotten the call? I know I have, and the disappointment can be crushing.

You wonder what it was that went wrong and if there was anything you could have done differently. It would take some of the suspense out of the waiting if you had some indication in advance of how good your chances were. Well, fortunately there are some telltale signs during a job interview that the employer just isn't that into you.

Someone once shared the story with me about an interview they conducted where the potential employer wrote their name down at the top of the page before beginning to ask questions. About halfway through the interview, the employer proceeded to draw a line through the name. Ouch. Most indications that your interview isn't going very well will be much more subtle than this.

Here's what to watch for – and some strategies for repairing a bad situation:

The interview seems disinterested. If the general tone of the conversation just doesn't seem to go well, you could be in trouble. This could mean that you've made a poor first impression and the interviewer has already given you the thumbs down. It could also indicate that another star candidate has already been selected, and so they're just going through the motions with you.

They don't try to sell you on the company or job. Employers are happy to hire new people; it's exciting to add members to the team. If they like you and have decided that you might be 'the one,' they're going to try to get you excited about taking on the role. They'll pitch the benefits of working for the company and of the job. If the employer makes no effort to convince you to want the job, they're probably not terribly interested.

The interview is short and sweet. Your interview only lasted a few minutes and basically just covered the information listed in your resume. You weren't asked any behavioural, hypothetical or mind-testing questions. Great, that was easy! Actually, easy is bad. If the interviewer doesn't ask you any challenging or probing questions, you're likely not being seriously considered for the job.

Salary didn't come up at all — or seems to be an issue. Once an employer has decided they want you, they have to see if they can afford you. Usually at some point in the second half of a first job interview, you'll be asked about your salary expectations. If this doesn't come up at all, it could be a sign that it doesn't matter how much you'd like to be paid, because you're not being hired.

Similarly, if the interviewer indicates that your going rate is higher than they were expecting or had budgeted for the role, it could be a deal breaker, unless you're prepared to negotiate.

The interviewer offers some friendly career advice. Sometime a nice gesture can be the kiss of death. So if the employer kindly points out some things you could do in order to be more qualified for the sort of jobs that your applying for, it generally means that they don't think you're there yet.

You aren't asked when you're available to start. Employers hire people because they have work that needs doing. They need to know when they can have the additional help coming in, and they'll need to get everything set up for the new hire. If they show no interest in when you're free to begin working for them, it can indicate that it's a moot point.

The interview ends with no mention of next steps. When things go well, your job interview will end with a brief discussion of what the next steps are. The employer will let you know if there's any work samples they need or a follow-up interview with more people at the company. At the very least they should give you a rough estimate of when they expect to make a hiring decision.

If you leave the interview hearing, "Hey, thanks for coming in. Best of luck with your job search." instead of discussing what comes next in the hiring process, you're out.

They don't ask for references. If there is no follow-up interview required, then the final step in the employee screening is usually to check your references. If the employer doesn't schedule a future appointment or show an interest in getting a list of references from you, your candidacy probably ends there.

Possible remedies for a bad job interview:

Stay positive. Remain upbeat throughout the interview. If you don't seem to be connecting with the employer at first, it can be discouraging and take the wind out of your sails. But who knows what's going on in the interviewer's head? Maybe they came in distracted, or you remind them of someone they don't like. You have the next half an hour or so to be interesting, confident and enthusiastic, and to turn that first impression around.

Be prepared to change tactics. If you've been talking at length all about your accomplishments at one former employer — and these don't seem to be resonating, switch it up. Talk about earlier jobs, how you chose your career path, how what you learned in school connects to the industry. You may need to find the anecdote that connects with the interviewers own interests to break through the icy patch.

Ask questions. If the interview is winding down and it really doesn't look like you've made the positive impression that you were hoping for, you can always come right out and ask. “Does it seem like I'd be a good fit for the role? Are there any concerns that I can address?” You may be able to speak to a perceived weakness that the employer has, or you may find out right then that you have no chance. It's still better than waiting by the phone for a rejection later.

Make the most of your thank you note. Writing to you interviewer to thank them for taking the time to meet with you is common courtesy. In the event of a bad interview, it's also your last chance to repair that first impression. Reiterate your enthusiasm for the role, and highlight what your unique skillset can bring to it. Say that you'd be happy to meet again to discuss some ideas you have for being successful on the job. Wish them luck with their hiring.

At the very least you'll come across as someone who is passionate about the job, confident in your ability to do it, and friendly and polite at all times. If you're not hired, you'll still be leaving behind a positive professional impression. And in many industries, your professional reputation is currency on the job market.

Certification in Works for Concrete Pump Operators in BC

By Richard Gilbert

The BC Ready-Mixed Concrete Association (BCRMCA) is planning to launch a new competency certification system for operators of concrete pump trucks after completing a pilot program to develop testing procedures on construction sites.

Currently, there is no requirement in BC for operators of a concrete pumper truck to receive training or certification. Anyone with a Class III truck driver's license can lease any size or configuration of a concrete pump, drive it off the lot and start pumping, without any sort of training or testing of competence

The BCRCMA released a report in June 2016 outlining the results of the pilot program, which consisted of 23 practical assessments of concrete pump operators on five equipment categories:

  • low pressure line pump, below 1,231 psi;
  • high pressure line pump, above 1,231 psi;
  • truck mounted — boom, 41 metres and under;
  • truck mounted — boom, over 41 metres; and
  • tower placing boom.

The daily workflow of these categories was identified to test the knowledge and performance of each potential candidate. In particular, assessments were designed for the assessor to observe an operator on an actual job site, while setting up to pump concrete, pumping concrete, cleaning up and finally washing out.

Candidates will be required to complete a recognized Pump Operator Safety Training course and pass a written theory exam before taking the new competency assessment for Pump Operator Certification.

The pilot program has gathered enough information to develop a business model for industry to review and approve, which outlines the cost and terms of delivery for operator assessment in BC.

The report concludes that the assessment can be delivered economically if the industry co-operates in the scheduling of jobs for the assessor. However, only one assessment can be conducted by each assessor during each day.

The BCRMCA has decided not to proceed with tower placing boom competence certification at this time after the trial assessment revealed the complexity of the use of a placing boom on a work site.

"These tests were completed, but the difficulty is that tower placing booms require a consensus among general contractors, engineers, pump operators and placers about best practices," said Kelly.  "Our recommendation here is to take that out until we come up with best practices, due to its complexity."

In this case, more consultation is required to understand the scope of responsibility in terms of delivery system inspection and clean out operation.

The new concrete pump operator standards in BC were developed by looking at standards in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Canada.

As a result of this research, it was concluded that the best option was to combine two different sets of standards developed in Canada.

The first standard was developed through industry consultation by the Construction Sector Council in 2005, while the second standard was developed by the Ontario College of Trades in 2014.

The latter standard is used to govern Ontario apprenticeship certification.

Concrete pumping can be one of the most dangerous activities on any construction site, states WorkSafeBC.


An Introvert's Guide to Life at the Office

Written by Kay Benedek

Let's face it — offices are rarely peaceful places at the best of times, but they are even less so when you happen to be an introvert. With open plan offices becoming more and more common, it's getting increasingly difficult to find personal space or quiet time at work. This might be just fine for the extroverts who tend to draw their energy from social situations. However, introverts prefer space and alone time to recharge their batteries and focus on work, making these busy environments an everyday challenge. Some offices just aren't built for introverts. The good news is that they can learn to work within them. If you're an introvert who works among the hustle and bustle of a busy office space, we've put together some tips and tricks for finding your focus among office chaos so you can truly thrive within it.

Make your space your own

Whether you have an office, a cubical, or a shared desk, it's important to make your workspace a retreat from your busy office life. Cover it with plants, put up pictures of loved ones, whatever you need to bring you peace and make you feel like you're in your comfort zone.

Manage your social obligations

Try not to overburden yourself with too many planned social commitments. There will be times when unexpected networking events or late nights with coworkers are unavoidable. Schedule plenty of downtime for yourself throughout your week so you can be recharged and ready to go when you need to be.

Find some private time

Go for a walk, grab a cup of coffee, or if possible, work from a home every now and again. Sometimes, you just need a minute or two to recharge.

Book small meeting rooms for only yourself

Take the opportunity to work in peace whenever possible. Book small meeting rooms when they're not in use so you can concentrate and get your work done.

Invest in a good pair of headphones

Whether you're playing your favourite tunes or just blocking out the world, a good pair of noise-canceling headphones can help you not only find some peace in a busy office but also show your coworkers that you're not open to conversation.

Come in earlier or stay later

Take advantage of the quiet times at the office. These moments to yourself will be some of your most valuable moments for your work process.

Make a daily habit of checking in with your coworkers

This might sound counter-intuitive, but checking in with your colleagues every morning will allow you to keep up with social activities, while doing it on your own terms. It will also limit the number of co-workers dropping by unexpected to say hello throughout the day. Get your socializing out of the way so you can focus on work.

Create a privacy sign

It could be a 'Work in Progress' sign, a clever coffee cup, or red light / green light system. Whatever it is, consider giving your coworkers some kind of visual cue that you are hunkering down so they can give you the peace you need.

Don't be shy about your skills and talents

It can be tough as an introvert to self-promote. Standing out is something most introverts prefer not to do. However, you bring valuable work skills to the office every day, and you deserve to be recognized for it. Stand up for your skills and your ideas as often as you feel comfortable.

Find the right office or company

Some introverts may be able to find their personal space in open plan offices. Some may not. If you prefer a cubical or an office for more private time, keep it in mind when interviewing and choosing jobs. Try to find a company that best fits your needs.

Push yourself outside your comfort zone every now and again

Stay late for a drink at the office, speak up in a meeting, self-promote your talents and skills. As an introvert, it can be easy to stay back, stay quiet, and keep to yourself. But every now and again, it's good to push ourselves outside our comfort zones. Just make sure you take care of yourself so you're able to do so when it really matters.