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Skill-level assessments throughout the United States and Canada have found that 80 percent of people assessed scored less than 50 percent in the basic technical skills needed to perform their jobs. Assessments of maintenance department training programs indicate that most are not effective in resolving these skill problems.
Training can be a substantial investment, but effective training programs can improve equipment reliability and increase production levels, transforming “on-paper” benefits into a real return on investment.
To generate real skill-level improvements, managers should consider using a systematic approach to developing and implementing training. A proven, effective approach is one based on the ADDIE instructional design model: analysis, design, develop, implement and evaluate. This approach in improving skills and meeting training requirements has gained acceptance in a range of commercial and institutional markets.
Analysis is the process of determining, and responding to changes in, personnel requirements and job-performance problems, as well as learning from industry experiences. It begins by fact finding to provide a basis for informed training-development decisions. This process ensures that apparent concerns are verified and can be resolved through training. Where the facts confirm or identify a specific training need, job-task analysis uses existing job data and employee skills and experience to identify and rate job tasks, as well as gaps in job skills.
Design uses task requirements and performance information collected during analysis to specify the knowledge, skills and attitudes that training will provide. Skill requirements are defined for each task. The design process concludes when all tools for development of a training program are defined.
Development organizes the instructional materials needed for employees to achieve learning objectives. During the development phase, one important step is a review process by experts in the subject matter and can include a table-top review, a written comment-and-revision cycle, and, if desired, a training pilot.
Implementation is the process of putting training programs into operation. It begins by defining scheduling criteria and activating the training plan. Based on training delivery methods, instructors are selected and trained, and the availability of employees, facilities and resources is confirmed and used to create the training program schedule. Training is delivered as planned, and employee and instructor performance is evaluated. These evaluations verify that employees have achieved the learning objectives, and they help identify and resolve problems related to instructor performance and the methods of presentation.
Evaluation encompasses two distinct areas: It ensures training’s continuing ability to produce qualified employees, and it measures such factors as equipment reliability. The latter area of evaluation is essential to monitor the effectiveness and the return on investment in the training program. By monitoring such indicators as employee job performance, plant and procedure changes, and operating experience, evaluation metrics help maintain and improve the training program.
Completing evaluation and incorporating results produces the performance data and feedback vital to any training system’s continued effectiveness.
Robert Gwaltney is manager of training solutions for Life Cycle Engineering in North Charleston, S.C. He has more than 40 years experience in industrial training and maintenance programs.