COVID-19 adaptations from Morocco: ACCES and H2O Maghreb
Since mid-March 2020, Morocco has been operating under strict rules of confinement in order to limit the spread of COVID-19, with schools and non-essential businesses expected to remain closed at least until the end of May 2020. The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) is currently implementing two partnership projects in the technical and vocational education and training (TVET) sector in Morocco: ACCES, a highly-specialized driver training program for trucks and buses, and H2O Maghreb, a state-of-the-art water and wastewater management training program. With all students, trainers, and staff forced to stay at home, UNIDO has been working closely with its partners to monitor the developing situation and explore innovative digital methods to continue the training programs within this complex and challenging new environment. In a period of unprecedented isolation, the UNIDO-supported TVET programs are turning to specialized and accessible digital tools, including online training platforms as well as messaging and video applications for viable workarounds to keep students and trainers engaged and connected to one another.
This spring, ACCES was set to begin an inaugural training cycle for the truck driver training program. When the pandemic hit, the team realized that the only chance for the program to be initiated was to adapt- and quickly: from the way they evaluated the candidates to how they delivered the training, everything had to be re-imagined for distance learning. During the pre-selection process, in addition to the standard technical requirements for the training, the team looked for candidates who expressed a motivation to begin their studies from home and a commitment to complete this pre-training phase as well as the practical training component once the school opens again. The ACCES team launched a remote-based, pre-training program on a sector-specific e-learning platform that is accessible to the 16 successful candidates and four trainers. The online training program offers unlimited access to specialized training modules that are available on any device connected to the internet. 31-year-old Mehdi Mhainina is one of the trainees who is currently benefitting from the pre-training program. Mehdi sees the virtual pre-training program as an opportunity to build crucial technical and soft skills to help him be better prepared to enter the workforce post-COVID-19. “I’m really enjoying taking part in this online pre-training program, which brings students and trainers together in a virtual classroom,” says Mehdi. Within the last week, trainees and trainers spent over 112 hours collectively covering different modules on the e-learning platform.
The H2O Maghreb project team, in collaboration with the Moroccan National Office of Electricity and Drinking Water (ONEE), also wasted no time in setting up a series of digital tools to swiftly adapt to the new learning arrangements imposed by COVID-19. H2O Maghreb is offering unlimited access to an online training platform, which offers a combination of complementary water and wastewater treatment modules, to 11 trainers and 24 trainees. This platform is accessible on any device that can be connected to wi-fi, which helps to ensure that the remote training sessions are as inclusive as possible under the given circumstances. Aziza Zerouali, a trainee in the current cohort, expresses her gratitude to the H2O Maghreb team in successfully managing the shift to distance learning: “Thank you so much H2O Maghreb, I am still just as proud and satisfied as ever with the quality of our training!”. With the team’s rapid response and transition to digital methods, H2O Maghreb managed to avoid any unnecessary lapse in training delivery.
According to Gilles Paris, TVET Expert of the ACCES training program, adapting to the constraints imposed by COVID-19 required mobilizing innovative methods for teaching and connecting remotely: “with our diverse arsenal of digital tools, such as the e-learning platform and live video sessions, we are able to ensure a high-quality and interactive learning experience for our students even when it is not possible for us to meet in the classroom. In this challenging context, these tools offer valuable alternatives to our students so they can stay connected and engaged despite the distance between us.” Video and messaging applications are also regularly used in addition to the e-learning platforms. Free messaging services have been a strategic tool for both ACCES and H2O Maghreb teams to stay in touch with their trainees on a regular basis. The facility and accessibility of these applications have transformed it into a space for sharing logistical information and relevant training materials, providing support and clarification on the online modules, and even checking in with each other on a more personal level. ACCES and H2O Maghreb trainers are also providing trainees with additional training courses, covering both technical and soft skills, through interactive live sessions using popular videoconferencing platforms. “Thanks to these distance learning tools, I am able to clearly explain the principles, methods, and objectives of each technical subject,” shares Loubna Benrahmane, Trainer in wastewater management with the H2O Maghreb Project, “I’m also sharing videos with my trainees to help them better understand the material, explaining each step like if we were out together doing fieldwork.”
About the projects:
ACCES is a training hub providing specialized training in driving buses and trucks for professional drivers and Moroccan youth. The project is the result of a partnership between the Government of Morocco, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Volvo Group, and UNIDO. Training vehicles, equipment, and teacher training are provided by Volvo Group. Volvo Trucks, Volvo Buses, and Renault Trucks are all cooperating on the training program.
H2O Maghreb is a high-level training hub in sustainable water and wastewater management for professionals and Moroccan youth. The project is the result of a partnership between the Government of Morocco, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Moroccan National Office of Electricity and Drinking Water (ONEE), EON Reality, Festo Didactic, and UNIDO.