Training Doesn't Have to Be a Budget Buster

Manufacturers have less money to invest in training, but affordable options are available.

Manufacturers are slashing the amount of money they spend to train their workers just as baby boomers prepare for retirement, according to a study by engineering and maintenance training firm Business Industrial Network (BIN). Out of 50 BIN survey respondents, 40% say they have cut training budgets because of the current economic climate.

This means with less money to spend, manufacturers will have to find innovative ways to replace the knowledge lost when older workers leave. Don Fitchett, president of BIN, offers several suggestions for manufacturers trying to train employees on strained budgets. To maximize training investment returns, Fitchett recommends:

Onsite: Real-world, hands-on training by an instructor to small groups onsite customized to the facility's equipment. If budgets don't allow for everyone to receive on-site instructor-led training, check with a local Private Industry Commission or employment office about receiving federal reimbursement under the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, which is typically managed and authorized by each state. Reimbursement is typically 60% to 100%. Another option is sending one or two employees to the seminar as part of a "train the trainers program," which they can then share with the rest of the staff upon return.

Seminars: The next-best option is providing instruction via public workshops/seminars with a limit of five to 10 attendees per instructor.

Online Training: A mix of onsite and seminar training along with a live online session with seasoned instructors can provide a cost-effective solution. The webcasts should include constant Q&A sessions, real-world applications and simulation software.

Formal Schooling: Provide technical or trade school knowledge via text books by a class instructor to a class of 10 to 20 students. These courses focus on generic concepts with little hands-on or real-world applications.

Simulation Software: Real-world simulation software allows students to learn through tutorials and trial and error without risk to man or machine. This is mostly self-learning through experimentation type training but can be instructor guided, too. Simulation software is ideal for training budgets under $1,000 and individuals who are quick learners, especially through self-study and experimentation.

Fitchett also notes that book or PowerPoint sessions are another option, but they're usually ineffective because they don't address all three learning types -- visual, auditory and kinetic. They're also theory-based and limited in knowledge transfer with little real-world application association.

In addition, making a choice between online training or a local trade school should depend on the student's schedule, course availability and which one offers the most real-world knowledge transfer, Fitchett says.

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