Nowadays, there is probably not an area that is unaffected by the current pandemic situation, and practical education is no exception. Increased hygiene measures, government resolutions, suspended hotel and restaurant operations or even bankruptcy of companies - such complications have contributed not only to a difficult working environment for employees, but also to more demanding conditions for dual education in secondary schools.
How did school institutions in the Košice region deal with this obstacle? Vocational schools involved in the IDES project did not hide the fact that they faced new (difficult) obstacles in the dual education of their students during the last online activity (training on the topic of food, agriculture and crafts).
Gastronomy and covid
The gastronomy sector is one of the sectors strongly affected by covid-19. The Secondary Vocational School of Trade and Services in Michalovce stated during the online training that due to the covid situation, it is not possible to complete practical training in the company (Bell Dairy), but the teachers of professional subjects in cooperation with the company are trying to replace it by having practical training in school classrooms or laboratories.
The Hotel Academy in Košice is in a similar situation. They pointed out the challenges of today’s (pandemic) era and the related difficulties, as not only customers, but also students could not access the restaurant. The school devoted a separate part of the presentation to the current issue. The impact of covid on the gastronomy sector was mainly felt in the limitation of the possibility of practical training for employers. In the case of the Hotel Academy, this meant that only two employers maintained permanent operations.
The school described a situation where they had to deal with the bankruptcy of their employers and therefore had to find an alternative dual education solution for their students who were sent back to school from practice.
So the students completed the internship either directly at the school, or the school found them another company.
The school is currently not recruiting new employers, as many businesses are closed.
The feedback from the employers also pointed out the deteriorated skills of the students, which is obvious from the teachers’ point of view, since the students did not have the opportunity to practice.
Source: Presentation of the Hotel Academy in Košice
The secondary vocational school of agrotechnical and gastronomic services in Pribeník has also created an online education system for its students. As for dual education, waiters gained a practical education at school, cooks could complete it in the kitchen.
Similarly, Ján Bocatia Secondary Vocational School of Trade and Services in Košice had to deal with difficulties. They emphasized that in this area they had to flexibly adapt to government regulations. Many students completed a dual education in the so-called essential establishments that were open, for example in supermarkets or sometimes in restaurants.
One of the students of this school also told us about his experience with dual education, who, despite the demands, mainly points out the positives. Despite the pandemic, he evaluates practical education positively, as he says: “The current situation does not make it easy for us at all and it is not easy to learn new things, but it taught us to find new solutions in such a difficult situation.”
Deichmann company also participated in the presentation of its experiences, which, in addition to the positive aspects of dual education, also objectively evaluated the negative side in connection with the current pandemic situation. In addition to the deteriorated attendance of students, caused by the isolation in quarantines in the company, they also perceive the deteriorated physical condition of the trainees.
During the training, the company emphasized that as a result of the pandemic, the students were not physically fit, which they felt after the return of the students.
The increased interest of students in online work and not in physical work is perceived negatively, which they also attribute to the covid era.
Specialized vocational schools
A different situation is reported by the specialized Veterinary Secondary School in Košice, on which the current situation does not have such an impact as far as practice is concerned. During covid, all clinics remained open, students had access to every operation, so they could work all the time even during different waves of the pandemic.
Despite the new obstacles that the pandemic situation has brought to the field of dual education, we believe that it has also brought new flexible solutions. Involved professional schools and companies aim to continue to provide students with as much practical experience as possible, so that they are prepared for the labor market even under the unfavorable conditions that present times bring.