The benefits of off-site training

March 20, 2014
By: Dan Davis

Allowing employees to go off-site for training purposes improves the learning environment and shows everyone that the company wants to invest in the individual.

When it comes to training events, many metal fabricators don’t think about seating assignments for trainees, but they might want to think about it.

My brother works in the manufacturing industry. I won’t say exactly what he does to spare him a little embarrassment—if that’s even possible. He’s a big guy with a big heart, who works hard and has little tolerance for unnecessary meddling in his job. If he sees something that looks like a waste of time or effort, he’s going to call it out, even if some sort of corporate chieftain might be present. While that may turn some people off, he’s respected because he’s reliable and honest. He can be counted on when others can’t.

About five years ago, his employer flew him and his peers to North Carolina for a team-building exercise. The manufacturing crew was invited to a NASCAR-type garage where they got a tour and a lesson in working as a pit crew. The day ended with them competing against each other to prepare a race car to get back on the track as fast as possible.

The employer hoped to increase interaction among the workers because the company had just completed installation of new equipment on a manufacturing line. As anybody in manufacturing will tell you, modern machines are only as good as the people who run them. A huge line of new production equipment requires all parties up and down that line to be communicating to ensure maximum green-light time is achieved.

I’m not sure the employer achieved its overall goal. My brother doesn’t share too many details about his job other than “It’s work!” or “I’m just livin’ the dream.” He did, however, tell me about this trip. It was unusual in the sense that his company thought enough of him and his co-workers to pay him to miss work and take part in this training exercise. He was incredibly appreciative.

Matt Guzzo, an engineering manager at Accrotool Inc., New Kensington, Pa., recognizes the importance of off-site training too. His company sent three employees to Mitsubishi/MC Machinery Systems’ Wood Dale, Ill., headquarters last year to train on the new fiber laser cutting machine the company had purchased.

“It gets these guys out of that mode of just producing parts,” Guzzo said. “They can focus on the machine and actually learn.”

In addition, he said the Accrotool employees are much more comfortable working on a machine that isn’t sitting on the shop floor. They can feel OK about making a mistake and not worry about damaging the employer’s multimillion-dollar machine.

I completely agree with both Guzzo and my brother. Off-site training, even if it isn’t machine-related, is a very obvious sign that a company thinks highly of an employee.

Actually I’d highly encourage more metal fabricators to take advantage of the many training programs the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association (FMA) offers. Certainly, metal fabricating shops have need of more skilled press brake operators or employees who understand how to root out waste from production practices. Those types of programs and more are produced regularly by the FMA education staff.

Also, for those who missed The FABRICATOR’s Leadership Summit in Austin, Texas, in February, you missed the best meeting yet. More than 150 attendees from the metal fabricating industry came together to learn from technology and business experts—and other fabricators—while enjoying good food and conversation during networking events.

Perhaps the only downside to off-site training is that sometimes you might need to keep a close eye on those employees not used to traveling. Some people might need to be reminded that it’s a business trip, not a vacation.

The night before my brother and his co-workers went to the race car garage, they went to a restaurant more known for its waitresses than its chicken wings. He sat down with two co-workers that were known for being pretty straightlaced and, frankly, weren’t really close acquaintances.

When the waitress came by and took drink orders, his two other tablemates asked for water, and my brother ordered a pitcher of beer. Before they could interject that they didn’t drink alcoholic beverages, my brother reassured the waitress, “Don’t worry. I’ve got this covered.”

A beer—and a learning opportunity—are almost always more memorable on the road.

Dan Davis

Dan Davis

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8281