Well, here it is, the day we opened. It was Monday 1st February 1984. All the classrooms were ready, all the desks had been put together and all the computers had arrived and were installed ready for use. The new group arrived at 9am, 30 of them, all anxious, keen and itching to get stuck into the computers. They were to be with us for one full year, 6 months in the classroom and 6 months on work experience with local employers.
The plan was that each group would spend 3 weeks in basic training in each of the 4 areas; electronics, programming, electronic office and databases/spreadsheets (which were complex in those days, if you remember dBase, WordStar and SuperCalc!) Once they had completed the 12 weeks, they would then choose an area to specialise in and return to that area for advanced training for 12 weeks. There was also a requirement for an outward bound course – but more on that later (I will blog my reminiscences of this in May – it will be worth checking back for!!)
Induction was first, of course. Health and safety at work, first aid and fire procedures, lunch and break time arrangements and how they would receive their £25 per week training allowance and travel expenses.
I can remember writing lesson plans and exercises for the young learners to do. How do you make word processing and office skills interesting enough to hold their attention?! My group also had the benefit of having the ITEC’s phone system in my training room and we did the typing work required by the managers, so they would have some ‘real’ work experience as part of their course. I can remember teaching them how to use ‘cut and paste’ – I would get them to move and copy lots of numbered paragraphs around in a document and then save their files and go on tea break. We would come back from break and I would make them put the whole document back in order again!! The trick was getting them to save their files after we’d mixed the whole document up before they cottoned on that they could exit without saving!
We did lots of letter-writing exercises. I taught them how to set out business letters and the formal language to use, i.e. Dear name = Yours sincerely, Dear Sirs = Yours faithfully, how to use the semi-blocked and fully-blocked layouts on company letterhead. I taught them all the control codes in Wordstar to underline, embolden and centre text, save their work, plus many more. I was dreaming about control codes, so I’m sure they were too….. Control PB turn bold on, type your text, control PB to turn bold off again! If you forgot the second Control PB, the rest of your printout would be in bold and, in the days of the daisywheel printer, this could take over 10 minutes as well as using up a lot of ribbon (as well as sounding like a machine gun)!!
Teaching them to answer the phone in a professional manner was great fun! We would do some role plays with them sitting back to back and watch some videos. At first they were very nervous and I had to make them take turns so they all had some practice with answering it and handling the call. After a few weeks, they would all rush to the phone when it rang and it was a clamour to see who would get there first!
It was a very enjoyable experience. In 1984, we had the time to get to know our first group of learners really well. It is great being back in touch with some of them now and seeing how they’ve grown up. They all have families of their own now and have carved out great careers for themselves. ITEC gave them a springboard to help them get started and they grasped the opportunity with both hands!
3rd February 2014