From application to selection and ultimately welcoming in new apprentices to our facility, providing them training on their specific program elements and watching their class graduate and become another group photo on the walls of the NIETC is quite a complex process.
Each term, a number of planning, coordinating, scheduling and communication steps are involved that rely upon the entire NIETC staff to work together, much like the structure of the teams our apprentices are assigned to work on out in the field.
On the construction site, it is to be expected to encounter conditions that cause scheduling conflicts, change orders and scope of work revisions however, at the NIETC our workflow process is fairly static. That is until COVID-19 became a harsh reality on March 23, 2020, under Oregon Governor, Kate Brown’s, Stay at Home Executive Order.
This abruptly shut down our training operations and without specific guidance on when, or how to, re-open, the NIETC staff again worked closely together to establish and implement a number of actions to create a safe environment for both students and staff to return to our facility.
Classes resumed Monday, June 22, with an average of 125 people in our building every day. COVID-19 cases were beginning to spike on a few construction sites as no formally regulated rules for social distancing, wearing of face coverings, enhanced sanitation efforts and pre-entry health assessments were in place. All of which were standard protocol at the NIETC.
As we progressed through summer, COVID – 19 cases continued to increase on our construction sites. Apprentices on these sites who worked in Close Contact with confirmed cases were required to quarantine from the NIETC which in some unfortunate cases, meant the removal from the term. Even with a few known cases in our facility*, we completed the summer term without a training related COVID case. After the summer term, we slightly modified our protocols for improvement and began the 2020 fall term.
During this term, we saw a massive increase in reported confirmed cases at home and in on construction sites. Even so, our COVID procedures allowed us to complete the term again with zero training related cases. While opinions about COVID-19 may widely differ, our success is the result of our staff and students recognizing we have to make some compromises and work through these new conditions in order to keep the NIETC training machine operational.
We are entering week 4 of our 2021 winter term and so far, so good. I hope to report once COVID is a thing of the past that we remained at zero cases under NIETC operations the entire time.
*known cases as a result of an asymptomatic student awaiting test results due to jobsite requirements and were in class before the positive result was known