It seems that there is currently no area inaffected by the current pandemic situation, and practical training is no exception. Increased hygiene measures, government resolutions, closed hotel and gastronomic facilities or even the bankruptcy of companies - such complications have resulted not only in a difficult working environment for employees, but also in more demanding conditions for dual education of secondary schools.
How have been school institutions in the Košice region coping with this obstacle? Vocational schools involved in the IDES project did not conceal their difficulties related to pandemic during the last online activity (Training on Dual education in the sector of Crafts, Agriculture, Food production and connection between work-based learning and social entrepreneurship and crafts) as they have faced new challenges in the dual education of their students.
Gastronomy sector and covid-19
The gastronomic sector is one of the sectors hardest-hit by covid-19. During the online training, the Secondary School of Trade and Services in Michalovce stated that due to the covert situation it had not been possible to complete practical training in the company (Cheese factory „Bel“ Slovakia) but teachers of vocational subjects in cooperation with the company were trying to find a substitution in school laboratories.
The Hotel Academy in Košice is in a similar position. They had highlighted the current (pandemic) challenges and the associated difficulties, as not only customers but also trainees had not had access to the restaurant. The school devoted a separate part of the presentation to current issues. They felt the impact of the covid on the gastronomic sector mainly in limiting the possibilities of practical training for employers. In the case of the Hotel Academy, this meant that only two employers maintained a permanent operation.
The school described a situation where they had to deal with the bankruptcy of employers and therefore had to find an alternative solution for dual education for their students, who had been sent back to school from practice.
The students completed the internship either directly at the school or the school found another company for them.
The school is not currently recruiting new employers, as many operations are closed.
The feedback from the employers also pointed to the deteriorating skills of the pupils, which was obvious from the teachers’ point of view, as the students had not had the opportunity to practice.
The Secondary School of Agrotechnical and Gastronomic Services in Pribeník has also created an online educational system for its students. As for dual education, the waiters had an internship at school, the chefs could work in the kitchen.
Secondary School of Commerce and Services Ján Bocatia in Košice had to deal with similar difficulties. They emphasized that they had to adapt flexibly to government regulations in this area. Many students have completed dual education in the so-called essential establishments that have been opened, such as supermarkets or sometimes restaurants.
If possible, students had practical training in these “essential” facilities. Otherwise, they had online lessons creating videos, especially those who cooked.
One of the students of this school also told us about his experience with dual education, who, despite the difficulty, has described mainly the benefits of it. Despite the pandemic, he sees practical training in a positive way, as he says: “The current situation does not make it any easier for us and it is not easy to learn new things, but it has taught us to find new solutions in such a difficult situation.”
The company's view
Deichmann also took part in the presentation of its experience, which, in addition to the benefits of dual education, also objectively assessed the other side of it, related to the current pandemic situation. In addition to the deteriorating student attendance caused by quarantine isolations in the company, the company also perceives the worsened physical condition of practicing students.
During the training, it was emphasized that as a result of the pandemic, the students were not physically fit after they returned to the operation.
As a matter of fact, the interest of students in online work has significantly increased. The company has stressed out the fact that after covid, the students are not in favor of the physical work.
Specialized vocational schools
Luckily, some school institutions were not influenced that much by covid in terms of dual education. The Secondary Vocational School of Veterinary Medicine in Košice did not report difficulties as a result of a pandemic situation. In fact, all clinics remained open, students had access to each operation, so they could work all the time during the various waves of the pandemy.
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. The participating vocational schools and companies aim to continue to bring students as much practical experience as possible so that they are ready for the labor market even under the unfavorable conditions that the current situation brings.