With regard to that "demonstrated ability" detail, I outlined a straightforward process your operations can use to verify that a candidate actually has the skills and knowledge with a "potential to succeed" as a maintenance technician in your maintenance job roles.
In "Growing Your Own: Part II," we take the next steps: how to set up your own basic maintenance-skills training program using in-house talents. Here, we'll address where to start; planning and preparing for training and conducting on-job training.
The era of maintenance-skills shortages has been growing for more than two decades. It's because of the "perfect storm" conditions we discussed in previous columns: aging Baby Boomers; fewer young people entering careers in industrial maintenance; the precipitous decline of vocational-technical education in our schools; and an over-emphasis on a "college education" by our society, our politicians and our schools. Couple these conditions with the myth that manufacturing is on the way out in America and you have the "perfect storm." Riding this one out will take foresight, planning, out-of-the-box thinking and leadership.
Starting with the basics
Once the candidates for the "maintenance technician in training" have been selected and brought on board, the training process should begin with a basic orientation to your "world of maintenance." If the candidates have been selected from the ranks of production workers, they already know their way around the plant, company policies and procedures. However, their knowledge of maintenance may be based on assumptions, rumors or just pure myths about plant maintenance. Think of this introductory training phase as Basic Training Boot Camp—"everything you wanted to know about maintenance but were afraid to ask."
First, develop a plan, since, like all good maintenance work, there should be a plan. List basic maintenance orientation and training activities and organize a process to assure things happen the way you expect.
Without a plan, the new maintenance technician in training can turn into a decent helper—but one with very little knowledge. Training/learning by simply following someone around doesn't work either. (Unfortunately, this type of "training by osmosis" or "shadow training" is quite common.)
Here are types of orientation activities/topics to include in your Training Plan for the basics:
Organize the topics/activities in a logical learning sequence—from the essential basic skills and knowledge to the more advanced. Use this Training Plan to organize yourself; manage the training process; and serve as a guide for the maintenance trainee and their mentors, coaches and trainers along the way.
Second, define the desired results from the topics listed for the Basic Training Boot Camp. What do you expect the maintenance technician trainee to be able to do upon completion of each segment of the training? Here's one example:
"Upon completion of the training, the trainee will be able to identify and explain all major departments, processes, lines, equipment locations, functions and safety"
Preparing for training
It is critically important to prepare yourself and others to facilitate an efficient and effective Basic Training Boot Camp. This step assures that the people, materials and schedules are prepared in advance. Here are four activities to prepare for instruction—preparing yourself as the "instructor" or "on-job coach."
Prepare yourself to instruct...
Let's see how this really works. We'll select one of the orientation activity topics from our Training Plan. Write this down and keep it in a training file labeled with the activity topic.
Example Topic: "Plant Equipment Orientation" (departments, processes, lines, equipment)...
Conducting on-job training
Continuing with a four-step approach, we'll follow an easy-to-use method for the actual on-job instruction of the trainee. This Four-Step Method of Job Instruction is a proven approach for almost all the skills and knowledge to be taught AND learned on the job. These four steps and their activities are as follows:
Let's see how this works with the topic of "Plant Equipment Orientation" using the Four-Step Method of Instruction. Write this down and have it with you throughout the training and coaching. Keep it in the file labeled with the training topic.
In this installment of our "Growing Your Own" series, we've focused on the basics of what every maintenance technician trainee needs to know, but may have been afraid to ask. After all, this IS "basic." The knowledge of the basics, though, is the foundation of efficient and effective training and learning.
Of the approaches discussed here, the Four-Step Method of Instruction dates back to World War II. That was when the U.S. Government had to train millions of workers to build equipment and armaments in support of the war effort—the labor pool from which it drew included countless housewives who had never before worked in factories.
Next month, in "Growing Your Own Part III," we'll outline approaches for training in more technical skills and knowledge for maintenance technicians. Remember: We must begin training our maintenance technicians of the future to assure our competitive levels of equipment performance and reliability. MT