Background: Studies have identified gaps in health and safety knowledge and work practices of vocational students in the United States and abroad. Little is known about what, how, when, or if health and safety are taught and if the teaching that takes place is effective. Faculty skilled in their technical area may lack knowledge related to health and safety and pedagogy. This knowledge gap is compounded by a deficiency or absence of high-quality safety and health resources for vocational and technical college faculty, the use of outdated and often inaccurate information, and lack of any standardized assessment of knowledge and skills.
Methods: To identify these knowledge gaps, we conducted group interviews with auto body collision technology and machine tool technology faculty at two colleges.
Results: Most instructors reported a rapid transition from technical trade worker or business owner into their faculty role, with little support or education related to teaching. No instructor used a defined health and safety curriculum and materials or could describe the breadth safety skills required for their profession. Instructors tested and evaluated health- and safety-related skills on an ad hoc basis and said that workers and employers were ultimately responsible for job health and safety.
Conclusions: Standardized health and safety training is needed nationally and should be progressive and integrated with career-specific educational programs. It should ensure that students obtain knowledge and understanding of how to apply the principles of safety and health and communicate with employers about health- and safety-related issues.
Keywords: auto body collision technology; career readiness; health and safety education; machine tool technology; vocational students.
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