Monday, July 15, 2024

Identifying your training needs

By Frank Reilly - JBP Trenchless Training Director.

“Probably the greatest challenge facing the water industry and our society today is making the most effective use of our workforce. Our most important resources are not our wealth and our machines, but our human resources. Equipment, capital, and methods are important, but human resources are the vital heart that makes our system work.”

This is a direct quote, slightly modified to bring it up to date, from a paper on Financing Water Utility Training by Donald D. Heffelfinger, published in the AWWA Journal back in 1969. It was tempting to give over this space to the whole of Mr. Heffelfinger’s paper, as much of what he described back in 1969 is as relevant today as it was then. Perhaps the main difference is that we now have a more complex and sophisticated mix of tools and technologies at our disposal and are at a point of inflexion with the advent of AI, where rapid change is inevitable.

I would suggest that it has never been more important to invest in training to make sure our ‘human capital’ is fit for purpose and prepared for the changes and challenges that lie ahead!

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Precise figures are hard to come by for average spend on training in the trenchless sector, but a quick Google search of general spend on training reveals an average per employee of $1,200 in the U.S., between $1,400 and $930 across several European markets, and $650 in India. If one considers the contribution to a company’s activities, the value attributable to areas of responsibility, and the consequences of poor performance or error of judgement by an employee, then some may consider these averages to be on the low side.

Training is indeed an investment, both in terms of direct costs and indirect costs through time committed. It may also not be immediately evident what the short-term benefits are, but, with the right metrics in place, it is possible to measure the benefits of good training programmes. Before committing to any training, a good starting point is to carry out a training audit. This process is scalable and can and should be carried out on a regular basis by all organisations, irrespective of size. Not only will this ensure the right type of training at all levels, but it will also provide the framework through which to measure benefits for the individual and the company, making sense of the investment.

An effective training audit should include at least these five general areas: define the goals of the training; assess current knowledge and skills assets; identify knowledge or skills gaps to inform training needs going forward; develop mechanisms for assessments; measure the effectiveness of any training matched against identified goals.

One of the more impressive processes I have come across was where a company established an in-house continuous professional development (CPD) scheme, asking all employees to keep an individual training log, noting all aspects of training they had engaged with, whether it was a 15-minute YouTube video on Patch Repair, or a full three-day course in Sewer Condition Assessment and Coding. Training comes in all shapes and sizes and at all levels. One of the benefits of this company’s in-house CPD scheme was to create a knowledge-hungry culture for continuous learning.

Targeted and well-delivered training does have a positive impact on the bottom line.

Next issue: Sources of training beyond the classroom

www.trenchless.training

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Trenchless Works bringing you balanced journalism, accuracy, news and features for all involved in the business of trenchless and no-dig from around the world

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