Unlike typical classroom courses that were able to seamlessly transition to digital platforms, vocational education and training (VET) programs, by nature, were not afforded the same convenience. Since most of these courses require hands-on learning, students need to be in a physical setting in order to truly master their craft.
As cases begin to drop thanks to mass vaccinations, VET programs are being removed from the back burner and getting the much-awaited opportunity to resume courses — but not without adequate health and safety measures.
NSW Health released Return to VET Guidelines to support colleges, training organizations, and students in resuming in-person training. We lay them down in this article.
COVID-19 Safety Plan
The NSW guidelines made it mandatory for VET providers to develop a COVID-19 Safety Plan for their faculty, staff, and students. This should include detailed health and safety measures, including physical distancing, sanitization schedules, and cleaning regimes. Specific establishments that are considered high-risk, including cafes, restaurants, massage clinics, and hair salons, would need to provide more specific guidelines to meet the NSW criteria.
QR Code Check-In
VET schools and training organizations must provide QR codes at their site’s entry points for mandatory check-ins. The NSW provides sign-in resources that providers can access and use for contact-tracing purposes.
Once the NSW meets its 70% double vaccination threshold, these QR codes will also be updated to provide every individual’s vaccination status upon check-in.
The NSW gives providers the liberty of deciding whether or not to require mandatory vaccination for their faculty, staff, and students. In doing so, it recommends that schools and organizations take the nature of their site into consideration. High-risk VET programs are recommended to implement vaccination mandates.
In addition, VET providers should also develop policies to cater to individuals who are unable to get vaccinated because of age restrictions, health reasons, or the unavailability of vaccines in their area. Some recommendations include alternate training deliveries and managed face-to-face assessments.
All individuals entering a VET school or institution should comply with mask mandates set forth by their state’s Public Health Order. Some districts, including various South American nations, require masks for all, regardless of vaccination status. In New York, California, and Connecticut, only unvaccinated individuals are required to comply with mask mandates.
To minimize exposure, VET providers are advised to create guidelines on staggered breaks for their faculty, staff, and students. If possible, they should also provide alternative eating spots to reduce the number of students visiting the cafeteria.
Frequent Cleaning and Sanitization Schedules
COVID-19 made it necessary for cleaning staff to sanitize hallways, high-touch surfaces, and floors more often than usual. VET providers should revisit their cleaning regime and make sanitizing the training site more frequent, ideally, every hour. Further, the NSW recommends that members of the cleaning staff are fully vaccinated.
A Safe Return for Vocational Education and Training
As VET programs begin resuming in-person classes, it’s important to keep these health and safety measures in check to reduce exposure to COVID-19. Students need the intimacy of physical and hands-on learning, but this educational need should be balanced with protocols that ensure their wellbeing amid the time of a pandemic.