Ms Daley-Boorn, one of the students enrolled in the new program, commented:

We all agree on the same things – the online training with Energise Oz made it easy for us….now going to paper-based, it’s not more work, just a different style of learning and doesn’t suit what we do in schools now. People are not going to sit down and read a textbook, that’s just not how apprentices learn.

It’s not just Australia though that goes backward with e-learning for apprenticeship training. The Industry Training Authority of British Columbia (a Crown agency funded by the provincial government) commissioned a strategy in 2008 for the expansion of flexible learning in the trades in BC, which secured both ‘hard’ provincial and ‘soft’ Federal funding commitments amounting to over $13 million.

However, after the ITA Board accepted the recommendations in the report, the project was cancelled, and the provincial funding was diverted by the ITA to ‘other projects’ – despite the fact that completion rates for traditional, campus-based apprenticeship programs were a miserable 42%. It was left to BC’s two year community colleges to fund blended learning apprenticeship programs themselves – which some, such as Vancouver Community College and Camosun College in Victoria, have done quite successfully. Nevertheless they are small pickings compared with the province-wide program recommended to the ITA.

These are the harsh realities of online learning, which still suffers from prejudice and ignorance from both government and employers alike.