Digitisation for South African TVET lecturers – TRAINME project enters second round

The modular training and education of South African technical vocational education and training (TVET) lecturers in mechanical and electrical engineering (TRAINME) project was a successful "train the trainer" project.

  • By Silvia Niediek, iMOVE

The modular training and education of South African TVET lecturers in mechanical and electrical engineering (TRAINME) project was a successful "train the trainer" project, realised by the Inter-Company Training Center in Eastern Bavaria (Überbetriebliches Bildungszentrum in Ostbayern, UEBZO) with funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF). 

As a member of the iMOVE network of German training providers, the UEBZO benefits from the good reputation that "Training – Made in Germany" enjoys internationally. The training institution is certified by German training providers, and works according to recognised standards that have been tried and tested over many years.

The first TRAINME project phase (from 2018 to 2021) is now being succeeded by a follow-up project based on the TRAINME concept, this time with a focus on digitalisation. Other important components of the new modules include the standard vocational training positions newly introduced in Germany – in addition to digitalisation, these include sustainability, law, and safety – which will be presented to the African technical vocational education and training (TVET) sector in TRAINME 2.

According to Carina Adam, a TRAINME project manager, the processes were based on the specific requirements of the South African partners and the feasibility of the intended measures from the start. "First, the University of Stuttgart, our project partner, identified and analysed the specific needs on site before we defined the training content in coordination with the South African Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). In an official kick-off meeting, the participants – lecturers at South African TVET colleges – were then introduced to the training concept. At the same time, initial questions were answered and the technical requirements for participation were established."

Hybrid training model for an optimal learning experience

Because of greatly varying levels of participant experience, the first practical phase was preceded by a self-study exercise. The participants were able to complete this via the learning management system (LMS) of the UEBZO and the Lecturer Support System platform of the DHET, with coaches also available online.

In the first one-week attendance phase, the knowledge acquired in the self-study exercise was refreshed, reviewed, and put into practice using concrete examples. For instance, in the pedagogy module, the lesson plans used at the respective colleges were first discussed.

Following this, the participants from the field of electrical engineering received the microcontrollers they had previously learned about in the online theory, and were able to carry out initial programming with them. This was followed by another self-study phase for practical testing and consolidating what they had learned, again with the online-supported exercises and the TRAINME trainers in a mentoring role.

In a second attendance phase at the host Ekurhuleni East TVET College in Springs (near Johannesburg), concrete strategies and handouts for the application of the knowledge imparted in the training were developed at the respective colleges, and corresponding practical exercises were carried out. The participants were able to try out the teaching sequences discussed in theory directly with their colleagues, so that at the end of the training week all participants were equipped with suitable material for direct use in their respective courses.

Key principle: proximity to practice for directly applicable training content

In the subsequent implementation phase at the TVET colleges, each participant had to introduce what they had learned into their daily teaching practices. The results, challenges, and experiences of this implementation phase were discussed and presented to the learning group in a final follow-up coaching session. Any gaps in knowledge or difficulties in implementation could be closed or resolved in this final attendance phase. 

According to Adam, a highlight of this final attendance week was a joint project of the two professional groups: "The components made on the 3D printer by the participants specialising in metal construc- tion were assembled, and equipped with a control system by the electrical engineering participants, so that everyone could take a SMARS (Screwless Modular Assemblable Robotic System) Robot Car they made and programmed back to their college at the end of the training."

Although this marked the end of the active training phase, the cooperation continues, noted Adam: "In the WhatsApp groups set up during the training, there is still lively exchange between the participants and also with the trainers. In addition, committed participants were able to take part in a master trainer workshop after the actual training, which, unfortunately, took place only online due to the pandemic. Here, the participants were prepared with selfstudy, exercises, and in the virtual classroom to pass on their newly acquired knowledge to other TVET lecturers as trainers in the future. Now, the master trainers have started to teach the contents of TRAINME independently under our supervision. This concept is also to be further developed in TRAINME 2."

Success factors

Adam summarises the success factors of the project as follows: "Our approach in TRAINME is largely based on leveraging the experience and prior knowledge of the participants and encouraging them to engage in discussions. We designed the lessons in an interdisciplinary manner. This allowed the participants to experience for themselves how the pedagogical approach can be integrated into practical training. In addition, the different professional groups interacted in a joint final exercise, where mechanics and electricians worked together on a project."

The UEBZO continuously coordinated all content and the time schedule with the DHET and the participating TVET lecturers to ensure the greatest possible benefit of the training. In order to achieve the goal of "trying things out instead of just listening," the UEBZO had to ensure the practical applicability of what was learned throughout. All the materials used are available as open source or are easily obtained in South Africa, and can be implemented on a one-to-one basis at the colleges. The participants' own material, such as their lesson plans, was included in the training.

Adam is particularly pleased with the feedback from the TVET lecturers: "The participants' reactions to our training service were consistently positive," says the project manager. Responses ranged from "The trainers were very enthusiastic and knew exactly what they were talking about," to "This was the best training I ever had."


ÜBZO South Africa project TRAINME  

Modular training and education of South African TVET lecturers in mechanical and electrical engineering

German-African Business Association - afrika wirtschaft  

Source: afrika wirtschaft, the German/English membership magazine of the German–African Business Association, edition 4/2021

The guest article by Silvia Niediek from iMOVE was published in aw- afrika wirtschaft, pages 40 to 43. The aw - afrika wirtschaft is the membership magazine of the German-African Business Association (Afrika-Verein der deutschen Wirtschaft) and is published every two months.