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In the three years since Nettle’s department overhauled its training program, more changes have occurred. Nettle and his team have responded by continuing to rethink their approach to training and education for maintenance and engineering technicians.
“The model of our company is evolving,” Nettle says. “We were a dominant commercial office company, industrial was second, and we had a tiny amount of (medical office buildings) and a little bit of retail. So we decided we didn’t want anything to do with retail, and we wanted to change that pie so we become a more dominant industrial company.”
The changes mean training must address not just new technology but, in some cases, completely different types of facilities in which those products and systems operate.
“Now I have to train my guys to convert over,” Nettle says. “I look at my staff and identify my core guys that I need to get embedded in medical office buildings because, even though I don't have a lot of them, I’m gaining more of it because that’s where the future is. I’ve got to prepare these guys for these future needs so as changes come about, they’re prepared to be able to deal with the industrial and (medical office buildings), which we didn’t have before.
“With the full-blown industrial clients, (technicians) are required to be able to go in and do certain types of inspections, following up to see if the PMs they are doing are proper, and you have a different vision for that than you do in a traditional office building. So part of the education had to change from not just maintaining what we had but learning where we're going.”
The revamped training program went beyond the nuts-and-bolts topics of daily maintenance and engineering activities, Nettle says. It also addresses some of the non-technical skills technicians need to succeed.
“We added more online training as prerequisites to hands-on and classroom instruction,” he says. “We utilize more onsite vendor trainings, which are free and usually include a vendor supplied lunch. We added more finance and Excel training. My guys learn Excel. I can guarantee you that there aren’t any other engineering firms or building companies that have Excel programs for their technicians.”
The reason for including such training relates to many managers’ ongoing challenge to find and keep qualified technicians.
“From a pay standpoint, if I’m doing all these things for my guys, they don’t want to go,” he says. “They know if they go to another company, they’re not getting this.”
In addition to revamping the department’s training and education program, Nettle says he also has placed greater emphasis on licenses and credentials for technicians.
“Why the emphasis on the licensing? Because I care about the guys,” he says. “I know that if we make changes down the road, I might lose some guys, and I don’t want them going out and not being at the highest level they can possibly be. Also, if my technicians are licensed and their knowledge level is higher than my competitors’ and my tenants see that, it makes them feel better about the company. Tenants care about the people who take care of them.”
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