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The Evolution of Industry Education Throughout the Pandemic: Trends & Predictions for 2021 

Last fall, The AED Foundation (AEDF) released a research report titled “The Impact of COVID-19 on Heavy Equipment Diesel Technology Educators.” This report was based on the results of a survey that the Foundation sent out to educators of various technical programs in the United States and Canada. Over 70 educators completed the survey at the secondary and postsecondary levels. Many of them teach in AEDF-recognized high school programs and AEDF-accredited college programs. The purpose of the study was to understand how schools across North America were handling the COVID-19 pandemic regarding education, whether there were any adjustments to the curricula at these schools, and how these educators felt about the adjustments (if any) that were made to their curricula. 

While instructors took the survey from several different regions of the United States and Canada, it was clear that regardless of location, most schools had implemented a hybrid learning model of both in-person and online training. From the survey results, it appears this hybrid approach was generally taken in response to health concerns due to the pandemic’s widespread impact across North America. The second most popular training method reported in the survey was exclusively in-person training. 

It was apparent from the survey results that conducting industry training live and in-person is vitally essential for the training to be perceived as effective. Of all of the schools surveyed, only one had moved to wholly online training. These statistics are drastically different from those reported in an article by CNBC, which said that 52% of high school and elementary students were attending school solely online in the fall of 2020. This stark comparison reinforces that the hands-on technical training element is essential to heavy equipment diesel technology programs. Students enrolled in technical training programs are likely to have very action-oriented careers as technicians, making a hands-on program important to prepare them for their future roles in the industry adequately. With this fact in mind, it is understandable why the fall of 2020 saw such a difference between traditional schooling and technical program education methods, as most survey respondents reported either entirely in-person or hybrid teaching methods last fall. 

Besides in-person training remaining prevalent through the extreme changes of the past year, another stand-out statistic from the report concerned enrollment. Almost half of all survey respondents reported that their enrollment rates were down from the previous year. While learning about this may trouble some readers, this statistic alone is not a cause for concern. The educators who reported a decrease in enrollment aren’t alone – throughout the United States, there was a drop-off of student enrollment in college in the fall of 2020. According to the National Student Clearinghouse, overall, 3.6% fewer undergraduate students enrolled in college in comparison to 2019. What’s more, that figure was 10% for community colleges. 

Taking into consideration that several of AEDF’s accredited college programs are based at community colleges, this downtrend seen in the Foundation’s survey appears to align with the National Student Clearinghouse’s findings. The decrease in enrollment is likely due to changes brought on by the pandemic; a report conducted by College Pulse states that out of 5,000 students surveyed, 59% believe that virtual courses are a less effective way to learn. This statistic is reminiscent of the fall 2020 instructor survey that AEDF conducted, in which the top concern among educators was that it would be a challenge to keep students engaged with online learning. Given these findings, it’s possible that we could expect to see enrollment numbers in the fall of 2021 increase in comparison to the fall of 2020 as COVID-19 rates drop and more individuals become vaccinated. Considering the current trends in the pandemic, it is possible that in 2021 more schools will decrease the amount of online learning, which could have been a deterrent for some students in 2020. 

While enrollment may have slowed during 2020, there is another reason that this statistic won’t likely become a trend: Vision 2025. The Vision 2025 campaign was started by The AED Foundation to reduce the industry workforce shortage and includes goals such as increasing the number of recognized high school programs and accredited college programs. Ultimately, Vision 2025 aims to expand the number of highly qualified industry technicians throughout North America. The Foundation has been hard at work collaborating with high schools across the country to help them achieve recognition status. With AEDF’s Vision 2025 plans that consist of recognizing more high schools each year, there will be more opportunity for students to obtain a technical education at the high school level. Considering this, we will likely see greater numbers of students entering industry programs in the coming years. 

Whatever changes may occur in technical education this fall, the Foundation will be on the lookout for new developments. AEDF is pleased to announce that it will be conducting another survey of industry educators this fall, followed by an additional report. Much like the last, this new survey will check in with instructors to determine whether schools have continued to implement new learning styles, such as hybrid and online learning. The fall 2021 survey will likely enable the Foundation to analyze the changes to schools’ education methods over the past year and the impact that instructors feel these changes have had on their classrooms. AEDF expects this future report to give more insight into the practices that schools find most compelling and whether online learning will remain as prevalent as it was this past year. 

To view the current report in full, please visit For more information on The AED Foundation’s high school recognition and college accreditation opportunities, please contact regional manager Sean Fitzgerrel at

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