Written by Lawrence Bouvier, CMRP
Vice President – Fuss & O’Neill Manufacturing Solutions
A large amount of industrial maintenance technicians are approaching retirement age – taking with them invaluable knowledge and experience. Today’s workforce entrants often have high school level vocational training and apprenticeship programs are nearly non-existent. All too often, employers try to fill this void with computer-based learning that focuses merely on craft skills. But hands-on practice is required to develop hands-on skills. Additionally, tradespeople need to understand more than basic craft skills; they need to be expert problem solvers with process knowledge specific to their companies. How do employers close the skills gap?
Step 1: Assessment
Assessment of mandatory skills is required in three areas:
- Craft Skills
- Problem Solving/Troubleshooting Skills
- Process Knowledge
Step 2: Analysis
Once the skills required are identified, a formal assessment process must be created. Typically, a combination of standardized testing, in-house interviews, and work audits comprise this assessment. This identifies areas of competency and growth opportunities for maintenance technicians. The individual assessments are then tabulated and compared against the required body of skills.
Analyzing performance metrics provides an additional assessment. Reviewing stoppage records and maintenance repair work orders demonstrates equipment and processes with which maintenance technicians struggle. Extra attention must be paid to supplement training in these areas.
Step 3: Planning and Execution
Now that the areas of opportunity are identified, and training plan must be created and executed. Training typically consists of a combination of:
- Hands-on Exercises
- Competency-based Learning
- Process Knowledge
- Scheduled Work in Specific Craft Areas
- Performance Evaluation and Feedback
The situations that technicians encounter rarely happen in an insulated, scripted setting. A program of demonstrated skills needs to be implemented and audited by maintenance supervision, team leaders, or senior technicians. Routine preventative and predictive maintenance tasks should be scheduled for developing employees throughout several cycles so that the repetition builds the acquired knowledge into habit. Newer maintenance technicians should be scheduled for a period of learning as an operator throughout the manufacturing processes for 90 to 180 days so that they can understand better how to apply their craft and problem solving skills.