For nearly two decades, the Australian Asphalt Pavement Association’s (AAPA) Training Centre has facilitated a wide range of courses and helped individuals to grow their knowledge within the asphalt industry.
Robert Busuttil, Director of Training & Knowledge at AAPA, says that upon its conception, the Training Centre filled a gap in the industry. “There was a need for something to be provided to the industry. Not just the suppliers but the customers too,” he says.
Mr. Busuttil has been with the Training Centre, located at AAPA’s head office in Kew, since 2012. He says it’s great to be able to meet lots of different people face-to-face and teach them about different facets of the asphalt industry.
He says that the more advanced courses lead to assessment, such as the Sprayed Seal Selection and Design course. Those who attend the courses have given great feedback to the knowledge they gain and the assessments. “People really want to know how well they did and how to improve,” he says.
Mr. Busuttil explains that there are some limitations in fully transferring all of the knowledge available in the industry. Many training sessions take place over the course of a day and include a lot of hands-on demonstrations. “There are some quite complex topics, and it’s very hard to get through everything in a day,” he says. While many of the courses take place in capital cities around the country, not everyone can access them easily.
However, how people can access this industry knowledge and utilise these courses is now evolving to the next level.
The AAPA Training Centre trialled its Safely Handling Bituminous Materials online course last year. Mr. Busuttil says that people were initially sceptical about the online learning aspect, but nearly 300 people have taken the course in a year. The feedback has been positive. “I think people are seeing there’s an advantage to [learning online]. It’s slowly getting some traction and we’ve had a lot of people interested,” says Mr. Busuttil.
The course covered the underpinning knowledge of the topic, and serves as a precursor to the more practical training facilitated in the face-to-face engagements.
Mr. Busuttil says that there has been a gap in the training offered by AAPA that can be filled by online learning. “We’ve got [courses] face-to-face, but we needed to make them more accessible in rural and regional areas,” he says. “Online, the advantages are that you can do it wherever and whenever you want – you don’t have to travel.”
Mr. Busuttil has a clear vision for the future of online courses through the Training Centre. As with the Safely Handling Bituminous Materials course, the idea is to give those in inaccessible areas more options, and to provide basic information to serve as a precursor before attending the practical, face-to-face sessions.
He asserts that people attending the face-to-face engagements will be on different knowledge and skill levels. Introducing a preliminary online aspect means attendees can get the fundamentals right. “Once you get to the point where you think you are able to tackle the more advanced topics, that’s where you go to the face-to-face courses,” he says. “It means that we can focus on more complex issue and practical examples in person, which is what people want.”
Following the course, people can access the online course information for one year. This means that anyone who undertakes the training can go back and refresh their knowledge at any point within the timeframe. “It gives them a great knowledge base to learn from,” says Mr. Busuttil.
He explains that this introductory material can help increase the level of knowledge across the industry. More people can access the information at their own leisure. Mr. Busuttil says that traffic controllers, for instance, are close to the action and can benefit from courses on safety measures for using bituminous materials. Those seeking a basic understanding of the subject can access that information online.
The online medium also gives the Training Centre more flexibility when it comes to selecting course subject matter. Mr. Busuttil says that material based on asphalt mix design, for example, hasn’t been explored previously, but can now be looked at in this capacity. He says the ultimate goal is to cement some of these courses solely online.
Mr. Busuttil estimates that more online training features will be operational by the end of next year. However, he says that there’s still a lot more work to do before then. “We’re looking at providing knowledge to a wide range of people from workers, to supervisors to engineers,” he says. “When we put this material together, we want to make sure it’s aligned with current industry practice.”
Mr. Busuttil says there is so much potential for the asphalt industry in the realm of online learning. Eventually, he wants to see the online learning features expand into webinars, online presentations, and even Q&A sessions with presenters.