cablex AG | Tannackerstrasse 7 | 3073 Gümligen |

08/05/2020  /  Martina Strazzer

Apprentices in the time of corona.

Good future prospects are on the agenda.

Over the last few weeks, the coronavirus crisis has triggered changes in all of cablex's areas of activity. Working conditions have been adapted in many places: there has been a shift to working from home, teams are working with protective equipment on construction sites and some of our colleagues are currently unable to work. Our apprentices are finding themselves in the same situation. We asked them about their experience of this extraordinary time.

This year, 52 apprentices are completing their Swiss Federal Certificates of Proficiency (EFZ) as network electricians with a focus on telecommunication, electricians and assembly electricians. Of these apprentices, 17 are in their first year, 17 are in their second year and 18 are in their third or fourth year.

We spoke with Joshua, Rafael and Toni about training under exceptional circumstances in the time of coronavirus. All three apprentices are completing their training as network telecommunication electricians at cablex. Joshua and Rafael are in their first year of training; Toni is in his third year and will complete his training in summer 2020. Everyone has different reasons for choosing a profession. While Joshua appreciates working outdoors with the beautiful views he can see from antennas and overhead cables, Rafael enjoys the variety of duties in his profession. Toni was initially employed temporarily at cablex, came to love his work and his colleagues and then began an apprenticeship at cablex.

The vocational schools and the training centre for the inter-company courses (ÜK) are set to remain closed until 7 June 2020, so they are teaching theoretical skills once a week via home schooling. The cablex vocational trainers and apprentices communicate mainly via the Microsoft Teams platform (using a tablet) or via mobile phone.

What is the process like in the digital classroom?

Joshua: "We work in the Moodle virtual classroom. The teacher uploads tasks for us there and informs us about any updates by e-mail. We complete the tasks, some of which are timed, and then inform our teacher via e-mail. The teacher then grades the work. If I'm honest, I find this platform less than ideal because you can't use it to hold a dialogue or ask questions to gain a better understanding."

Joshua at his workshop place in Oftringen.

Rafael: "We only communicate with our vocational training college teacher via the Microsoft Teams platform. While this is naturally not comparable to the teaching you get in a regular classroom, it works very well. The mood among the students is still very good."

Toni: "At the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, we worked using the Zoom platform. However, we were quickly able to convince our vocational training college teacher to use Teams instead. I'm currently focusing all my energy on preparing for the practical final examination. My vocational trainer also sends me exercises for this via Teams."

All apprentices with their own car travel to the construction site as usual to carry out practical activities and continue to learn them. FOPH's protective measures have so far prevented multiple people driving to the construction site in a single car.

What is being done to ensure that you still learn the practical skills required for your professions?

Joshua: "I can reach the Unterentfelden exchange by bike. Among other things, I was able to carry out Power measurements there. Otherwise, we can use the workshop spaces in Oftringen four days a week. We can do practical work there under the guidance of our vocational trainer."

Rafael: "A practice wall was provided for us in Dielsdorf to allow us to do practical work. Due to the restrictions on the number of people allowed there at any one time, I go there two to three times a week according to a predetermined schedule. I'm in regular telephone contact with my colleagues in the region and can reach any nearby construction work that may be taking place using public transport."

Toni during his daily work on the construction site.

Toni: "I have my own car and can work on the construction site without any restrictions. We often work in the same teams and consistently ensure that the required protective measures are adhered to. Before my exams, I can probably attend a repetition course on the subjects of fibre optics (Fox), copper and measurement technology in order to consolidate my knowledge of the exam topics and prepare myself as well as I possibly can."

The federal government has decided that no written final examinations will be held this year for Swiss Federal Certificates of Proficiency (EFZ) and Federal Certificates of Vocational Education and Training (EBA) (qualification process). The semester grades achieved by the end of the first semester 2019/2020 will be included in the overall assessment. No certificate grades will be awarded for the 2020 spring semester.

The practical exams will take place according to the examination schedule in weeks 24 and 25 of 2020. However, exams will only be held for the main topics of telecommunications (copper, fibre optics and measurement technology). They will also be held in smaller groups comprised of four apprentices each.

Toni, can you describe your situation in more detail? Can you correctly/sufficiently prepare for your exams in this way?

"Cancelling the theoretical exams is no problem for me as I have good semester grades. I also think it's the right decision because you can't prepare as well at home as you can at school.  However, I think it's a shame that the media are presenting this as if apprentices will be passing their exams or graduating without putting the work in. I think it is good that we'll take the practical examinations on the three main subjects of copper, fibre optic cables and measurement technology for network electricians. This will allow us to demonstrate what we've learned on the construction site over the past few years. At school, around 70% of the focus is on energy and electricity issues and 30% is on telecommunications."

Despite the conditions caused by the coronavirus, the three apprentices are very motivated and still feel very well looked after even during this extraordinary time. Of course, we all hope to be able to work in a regular daily routine again from mid 2020. All cablexers have so far proven that they are crisis-resistant and continue to give their best in difficult times. They've been carrying out all their projects and duties with a lot of heart and soul, and our team spirit is weathering the crisis. Many thanks to all!

We would like to encourage our apprentices to stay motivated and persevere, and wish them all the best for their upcoming exams!

cablex AG | Tannackerstrasse 7 | 3073 Gümligen | Phone 0848 222 539 | cablex.info@cablex.ch