The Wisdom of ‘Ol Charlie

Last week I received two newsletters advocating the same thing: On-The-Job (OTJ) Training. One newsletter pointed out, “. . . you can learn about forklift safety, but eventually learners will need to drive one before true learning takes place.” The other observed, “. . . when you ask a dozen workers in almost any organization about how they learned their job – most will point to On-The-Job Training.”

I am in total agreement. The best training is one-on-one hands-on training that was standard procedure in American industry throughout the first three quarters of the twentieth century. Here you had the real thing. Here you had an instructor (usually, “ol’ Charlie”) who knew how to maintain and operate that piece of equipment you were trying to learn. No form of later technology-based training would ever match it from a learning point-of-view.

Why did it go away? Cost. Much too expensive. And, it was also the least efficient method for training. But, for learning it was best – but with some real problematic weaknesses.

What were those weaknesses? Well, ol’ Charlie knew only what he knew, which may not have included the best work practices or the best safety practices. Sure, he could replace packing but did he always use the best tool to do it?

The point is that while OTJ is the best way to learn, it should be combined with CD-ROM or e-learning so that a generic base of knowledge underlies ol’ Charlie’s teaching. We all need that base before we learn the specifics. In our example, the worker needs to know the best safety practices and the accepted work practices before he learns the specifics that ol’ Charlie can best provide.

Plus, today for the first time we also have available affordable simulation tools as well as the evolving haptic technologies. Both can also provide that base knowledge and help in bridging the gap between the classroom and the shop floor.

One or more of these learning media will augment OTJ and give you the best of all worlds.

— Bill Walton, Founder of ITC Learning