March 17, 2014

In a well-reasoned article by Bob Williamson (Maintenance Technology: “Replacing the Maintenance Apprenticeship Training Model), Williamson opens with a short review of the traditional model: “We’ve recently realized that our current apprenticeship model for training and developing maintenance technicians is obsolete. Very few, if any, people are interested. Those who sign up rarely stick with it for very long. Those who have completed the training often lack the equipment specific maintenance knowledge for our equipment.”

Instead, Williamson offers his version of a more productive track for developing future maintenance technicians:

1. Formal Education: Career education; Basic reading, writing, math, science
2. Formal Training: General knowledge & skills of the job, equipment and task specific methods
3. Formal Qualification: Performance demonstration to verify skills and knowledge

Formal Education is essential in that it should build the foundation for success in industrial-maintenance careers. It also must include “career education” that helps students understand their career options and make decisions on what paths they want to pursue. Career education is essential whether a student desires a “college education” or a “technical education” path. The career choices should guide the education choices along a career development path.

Formal Education should then be aligned with the career development path toward career options and goals that the student is interested in pursuing. The formal education requirements of reading, writing, math and science will vary depending on the career emphasis: mechanical, electrical, electronic, engineering, scientific, academic, etc.

Formal Training stresses the “tools of the trade” including general knowledge, applied skills and knowledge, and proficiency building in equipment-specific tasks and methods. The goal is “procedure-based” maintenance training and job-performance. Formal training based on these maintenance procedures requires structured on-job training and coaching by a proficient peer or trainer with some classes and guided self-study.

Formal Qualification is the capstone to the education and training process. On-job performance demonstration (or qualification) methods are used to allow the trainee to demonstrate their skills and knowledge competency to perform specific job tasks. Prescriptive improvements are recommended where the trainee shows weaknesses. The ultimate goal here is to develop equipment, job, and task-specific “qualified” maintenance technicians.

Williamson’s suggestions make good sense. I would add only two observations:

1) Simulations and full-motion video learning are better able to communicate with today’s young adult learners than is the archaic “lecture-reading” method. Combined with hands-on practice, our training leaders must adapt their training choices to today’s learning culture.

2) As a nation, we Americans must return to the days when blue collar employment was as respected as was white collar work. Cultural recognition will certainly play a role in returning many capable people to the maintenance technician ranks.

More on Wednesday – – –

Bill Walton, Founder, ITC Learning (Tuesdays & Thursdays)