In my previous article, I discussed training in general terms, and we talked specifically about training on the shop floor. Often, we get too focused on tradespeople. We do train tradespeople, but there are other very important professions that contribute to making a project successful. We employ drafting people, project managers, quality control, engineers, administration, document control, and others. It is important to remember it takes a concerted effort to make both small and large projects alike happen on time and on budget.
If you talk to people in our industry, they will tell you they look for individuals with plant experience. They would rather hire a person from a manufacturing background than someone who has spent his/her time simply behind a desk. If you are a drafting professional or a project manager who works at a manufacturing plant, you actually get hands on training. The function of drafting or project management may not change, but there is a major difference between understanding and getting to see firsthand what youâ€™re building. Many in the industry feel we would be further ahead if everyone had this type of hands on experience and training. Of course, our doors are always open to tours and we work very closely with engineering companies and end users who do come through our facility, but there is just no replacement for the hands on training our shop floor provides.
If the next iteration of the Canada Alberta Job Grant were structured a little differently to include onÂtheÂjob training at a facility like Plains, we could do more meaningful training that had real value to building the workforce. This is not to say the training provided by schools and other businesses does not hold value, it very much does. These are major partners in the building of a skilled workforce. What would have a greater impact is if those companies that were willing to train could receive some form of tax benefit. We are willing to play a major role, but without governmental assistance, it is difficult to afford to continue with the onÂtheÂjob training which we currently provide.
It is logical to utilize those of us who are willing to train, those of us willing to call on our years of experience, those of us who will be moving into retirement soon Â to train the next generation. At the current rate of training, we are going to miss the boat. We need a genuine effort from government and other industries to reduce the knowledge gap. It is only through maximizing the years of experience available that we will even stand a chance.
We are building a generation who will only understand pieces of what they are building. They are not getting the whole picture. They may understand the basic function of their chosen profession, but true knowledge and background can only be built by learning from those who have spent years on the job and are willing to pass on this knowledge.
Now donâ€™t misunderstand, this is a two way street. There is much to gain from having a fresh set of eyes and the great questions as to why things are done a certain way and possible improvements. Now, I donâ€™t want to call us â€œoldâ€, but weâ€™re not getting any younger. Succession may be a hot topic for people to talk about, but no one has come up with a magic bullet to hand over this information. It is going to take time and this is where our friends in the educational institutions could help those of us willing to train. If we could manage to combine those of us willing to train (with years of knowledge to share) working with those who are trained to teach, I couldnâ€™t think of a better solution to this problem.
There are many ways we could brainstorm a solution, but there are a few necessary requirements: a government willing to create a taxable benefit that works, an industry willing to train, and a school system prepared to work collaboratively with industry to provide assistance and support.
We are going into a time of uncertainty. When oil prices have fallen previously, we did not properly invest in the next generation, and this has left us with a deficit when it comes to younger skilled and trained people. The benefit of our industry going into a slower period is we could take advantage and get more training done than ever before, but that is going to take some investment. It is always difficult to convince companies this is the right this to do when times are hard, but it is also the best time to make this type of commitment.
The best way to learn is by watching, listening, and having an experienced person guide and teach you the tools of whatever trade you have chosen to pursue. It is time to take this opportunity to pass our knowledge to the next generation. We just need to add enough voices to the chorus to make sure we are being heard. It may be counterintuitive to some to invest when companies are going through a slower period, but the underlying theory is to â€˜buy low and sell highâ€™. If we invest now, we reap the benefits of having the luxury of more time and the ability to focus more experienced people to help those who need their experience the most. It is easy to see the silver lining in this scenario, and there is a generation of young people who can benefit from this. Our media seems to be focused on the negative, but as a business person I have learned to see opportunity where others see problems. I know that many in industry see this same opportunity. Industry and educational/vocational institutions need to focus on additional training during tough times for incalculable benefits in the future.