Column Training Workforce

Training Next-Gen Workers

Bob Williamson | December 20, 2017

Imagine how effective learning could be if we were to harness the experiences of some of our most skilled and knowledgeable employees as one-on-one teachers, coaches, mentors.

Most of us associated with plant operations and maintenance were excited about learning to make and fix things while we were in school.

Basically, our model was learning by doing. More accurately, it was probably the learning-by-doing-something-I-could-use model. Most adults learn that way well beyond their school years.

There is an ever-growing skills gap in today’s workplace, especially when we look at jobs in manufacturing, transportation, utilities, and construction—jobs that require hands-on or applied technical skills and knowledge. How do we teach the next generation (Next Gen) to work? They are already in the workplace or already in school. It would only make sense that education and training for all of those jobs and careers be based on proven applied-learning models.

When we delegate a student’s education exclusively to schools, we are primarily teaching students how to become even more educated. It’s when our schools adopt applied-learning models that the education becomes more relevant to the world in which we live.

We often hear that experience is the best teacher. To be meaningful, the “experience” cannot be merely random, independent, or accidental. Experiential learning must be purposeful, applied to specific outcomes, goals, or an objective.

Teacher Becomes Mentor

If experience is the best teacher, then the teacher must first master the art of becoming a mentor. Life-altering learning occurs when real-world-of-work experiences are included in the teaching process and when students learn by applying new knowledge to specific projects.

A mentor may not necessarily be an educator or someone with a formal education. What mentors have to offer are their life experiences. It’s when those experiences are aligned with the student’s learning objectives and supported by a project with defined and observable outcomes that the mentoring form of applied learning truly works.

Workplace Mentors

Imagine applied learning in today’s workplace. Imagine how effective learning could be if we were to harness the experiences of some of our most skilled and knowledgeable employees as one-on-one teachers, coaches, mentors.

Imagine how much could be learned when new skills and knowledge are applied immediately on the job. Imagine how the performance of our plants would improve if people learned what is needed on the job to keep the plant running efficiently and cost effectively.

What we would be imagining is at the heart of the apprenticeship model of learning, not necessarily the modern-day model with governmental oversight and certification requirements. Rather, it’s an apprenticeship program within the walls of your plant—a proven old-world model of a mentor and protégé. EP

Bob Williamson, CMRP, CPMM, and member of the Institute of Asset Management, is in his fourth decade of focusing on the “people side” of world-class maintenance and reliability in plants and facilities across North America. Contact him at RobertMW2@cs.com.

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Bob Williamson

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