Benefits of Certification vs Ad-hoc Training

Ad-hoc, on-the-job training has been practiced for ages. The problem is there is no defined finish line, nor the associated recognition of achievement at the end.

There are considerable benefits for industry, workers and others in certification programs for various job training programs:

  • It builds awareness of the quality of your trainees
  • It increases employee satisfaction. Certification helps employees validate their career choice, see the value of learning and generates excitement about gaining new credentials
  • It often increases interest from potential applicants to a sector that employs certification, compared to other sectors that do not offering certification
  • Over time, companies see both an increase the capabilities of their employees and also increase in their retention rates

How Does the Certification Process Work?

Prior to the training, WBLC works with industry subject manager experts and defines the technical learning outcomes that are required to successful complete in a training program. WBLC then creates a learning program that ensures all of the required key knowledge elements have been embedded into the training program.
At the end of the training, the WBLC assesses and, if fully satisfactory, independently certifies Trainees’ qualifications and skill levels at the completion of their ‘On-the-Job’ learning and awards the trainee a WBLC Certificate.

For example, the certification process for a CNC Machinist involves the trainee successfully passing of tests administered during the e-Learning and practical ‘on-the-job’ training. During the process, the trainee demonstrates his/her knowledge of general manufacturing technical practices and procedures, and knowledge of technical work practices by completing an on-line examination.

In the CNC Machinist program, an independent WBLC Assessor verifies that the Trainee can set up machines and produce parts as per work orders or approved drawings while meeting all required quality standards and scrap standards. This outcome will be assessed at the conclusion of the training by having the WBLC Assessor observe the Trainee performing required job tasks and completing a practical assessment.

WBLC has established a finish line and those that successfully cross it, receive a certificate.

Training Your Technical Trainer FIRST Results in Lasting Benefits for Your Company

Benefits of Training your Technical Trainer First

  • Newly hired employees become more proficient faster
  • Reduce rework and generate less scrap
  • Training existing employees on new equipment/processes
  • Experienced skilled workers spend less time training
  • Safer workers with fewer accidents

On-the-job training happens across the country every day but how that training is delivered can greatly impact the effectiveness of the training. Companies often ask their most knowledgeable, experienced workers to be trainers since they possess the expertise which the trainee needs to learn to do the job. In the manufacturing, maintenance and technical service industries, these trainers are often called Technical Trainers.

But just because they have the experience, it doesn’t mean that these trainers have learned how to pass along that knowledge to others.

“if (the employer’s technical trainers) are trained in effective job instruction, they will make a significant positive difference in how quickly and effectively the trainee is learning” –  Pavel Wegrzyn, a mentor/coach with Work Based Learning Consortium

“We’ve seen in our programs with clients that their technical trainer, if they are trained in effective job instruction, they will make a significant positive difference in how quickly and effectively the trainee is learning,” says Pavel Wegrzyn, a mentor/coach with Work-Based Learning Consortium (WBLC).

A key aspect of WBLC’s hybrid approach to training and e-learning includes a train-the-trainer element called the Technical Training Effectiveness Workshop (TTEW), which provides rapid and effective training for the trainers onsite. It equips the employers’ most experienced skilled workers to be more effective in their training efforts.

“When we started thinking of creating the Technical Training Effectiveness Workshop, we asked companies if they felt a train-the-trainer program is needed or would be helpful,” says Rod Jones, Managing Director of WBLC. “Companies said there was nothing they could find that would help their trainers. Or, when there was a program, they’d have to send their trainers off-site for several weeks or send them to a long program where training trainers was only one element.”

There clearly was a need for a rapid, focused program on job instruction training and WBLC set out to address it.

Maximizing Adult Learning Effectiveness

WBLC recognizes how busy trainers are with their work. Leadership coach, facilitator and organizational development consultant Bob Nager worked with WBLC to develop the workshop which consists of two 90-minute virtual sessions. After completing the workshops, trainers are supported by weekly meetings with WBLC mentor coaches.

“Our approach has been to get employers to identify experts on the job, who have been doing their job for years, and then provide them with directly relevant knowledge and a proven time-tested process to be able to effectively do technical training,” says Bob Nager, who also has a Master’s degree in Adult Education, Workplace Learning and Change from the University of Toronto.

“Adults learn much better when they are self-directed and self-motivated,” says Nager. “People will retain knowledge much better when they understand ‘why’. If you just go by rote and teach people material, maybe they’ll learn it, but it won’t work as well as allowing them to understand the reasons why they’re doing things.”

The workshop also includes an experiential learning element where trainees watch a trainer perform a task they are about to learn. The trainees are asked to replicate the task and explain why they are doing what they’re doing – integrating it into their thinking. The examples used in the workshop are crafted by the WBLC Learning team and then put on video to demonstrate the trainer instructing a trainee in tasks that are relevant to the job sector using the program.

A Proven Methodology – from WWII to Modern Lean Manufacturing

Nager explains that the WBLC Technical Training Effectiveness Workshop is based on a methodology called Training Within Industry (TWI) that originated during the Second World War by the U.S. government. TWI has since been adopted by the Lean manufacturing sector.

“Not unlike the challenges facing manufacturers today, the war effort required bringing thousands of people into factories in a very short time, where many had no previous manufacturing experience,” explains Nager. “They recognized they needed to rapidly upskill workers quickly to deliver quality outcomes.”

“The TWI methodology is a tried and tested methodology adopted by the Lean manufacturing sector. We have lots of evidence that it really delivers great outcomes,” adds Nagar.

The training workshop provides technical trainers with an easy-to-use framework for performing their training work. Previous attendees have repeatedly shared with us that WBLC framework gives them confidence in working with their trainees. The technical trainers also are taught to recognize that people learn differently and learn tips on how to factor that into their instructional approach.

After the workshop, the technical trainers have weekly calls with coach monitors to help them with challenges they’re encountering, discuss progress made, answer any questions related to the training methodology, as well as provide tips. These weekly calls are additional support for the trainers and also are used to evaluate the effectiveness of both the TTEW workshop and the trainers themselves.

Valuing the Training

The train-the-trainer workshop has advantages for both the company and the trainers. Sometimes, experienced workers are asked to train others in addition to their regular day-to-day duties. This can be a challenge.

“The Technical Training Effectiveness Workshop demonstrates that the company acknowledges that technical training is as part the trainer’s individual’s job,” adds Nagar. “Now there’s the acknowledgement from the employer. Trainers are pleased to have their training skill recognized, and really start to take pride in bringing their trainees along. It immediately increases their confidence.”

The effect is improved training results, a faster training process, reduced re-training time, less rework and scrap, and safer workers with fewer accidents. The result is faster payback for employers.

“Knowledge obtained from WBLC’s Technical Training Effectiveness Workshop is an enduring asset…it continually pays dividends ” – Rod Jones, Managing Director of the Work Based Learning Consortium

“The good news is the knowledge obtained from the WBLC workshop is an enduring asset because once people know how to do it, as long as they apply it, it continually pays dividends” says Jones.

Trainers are set up for success and there are clear business results – newly hired employees become proficient more quickly and experienced skilled workers spend less time training.

“Companies need qualified people as there are significant skills shortages in some sectors and firms need people to be up to speed and trained quickly,” adds Nagar.

The Technical Training Effectiveness Workshop can be a key element of the training and upskilling solution for your company.

Keys to Creating a Highly Effective e-Learning Program

When Work-Based Learning Consortium (WBLC) first started to build its e-learning program years ago, the purpose behind the initiative was to help companies to train their employees at the worksite and avoid the geographic limitations often associated with classroom training.

To give some context, part of the original CNC Machinist training at the time involved classroom and shop floor instruction in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). This worked well for some companies, but for companies outside of the GTA, it often meant that staff had to be bussed into Toronto for classroom training for several weeks at a time. It wasn’t the ideal situation.

Rod Jones, Managing Director of WBLC says they recognized that a different approach was required and efforts were made to create an e-learning component.

“We knew that the e-learning couldn’t be just a talking head (of) a classroom instructor.” – Rod Jones, Managing Director of the Work Based Learning Consortium

“We knew that the e-learning couldn’t be just a talking head,” says Jones. “It’s not videotaping a classroom instructor. It has to be interactive and engaging for the trainee. But the e-learning also has to be focused on the knowledge and skills that are required in order to perform the job well and successfully.”

Today, WBLC’s e-learning program is part of a comprehensive approach to training and upskilling, which includes interactive e-learning, e-instruction, train the technical trainer workshops, shop floor assignments, on-the-job training, technical language training, monitor coaching and last, but not least, certification of successful trainees.

“Imagine you’re the student, you’ll do some e-learning modules, meet weekly with an e-instructor via a video conferencing program, such as Zoom, and receive practical, hands-on assignments from a technical trainer that reinforces earlier e-learning,” explains Reema Duggal, a lead for the virtual learning initiatives with WBLC. “Mini quizzes help trainees to master each training module. Ultimately, after completing the training, the trainee is assessed by a mentor coach and, presuming they pass, they are certified for the position.”

WBLC’s Work-Based Learning programs consistently achieve success rates above 90%.

Choosing the Best Way to Present Information

“We are very focused on creating a high-end e-learning experience that is highly effective at passing along all of the knowledge and skills required to successfully complete the training,” – Reema Duggal, Virtual Learning Lead, Work-Based Learning Consortium

Duggal explains that e-learning builds on technical learning outcomes and technical knowledge elements that were initially defined before the learning programs are created. This involves gathering the knowledge and skills that are required for a successful performance on the job from industry experts, and subsequently translating that information into detailed, digestible units of information.

For example, the early portions of the CNC Machinist program involve teaching the trainees about the machines themselves. Parts of this particular module use images and text, animations, and video. The trainee moves slowly around the outside of a CNC machine and then into the inside, showing parts and learning terminology related to the machine. As the trainee progresses through the e-learning modules, they take periodic quizzes and can’t progress to the next stage until they’ve answered the quiz 100% correctly.

“The pace of the video when teaching the terminology of the CNC machine has been carefully set to ensure new machine operators can easily absorb and comprehend all of specific information they need to know,” Duggal explains. “They are quizzed as things move along. A quiz is typically two to five questions … simple questions … but they must achieve 100% on the quiz before moving to the next stage. The key is for them to know the material. We’re all about comprehension.”

Example of Animation from the WBLC Mold Maintenance Technician e-Learning Program

Some of the modules feature considerably more videos as they demonstrate more complex operations, instructions or tasks. For example, the trainee might be shown a static image of a task they’ll be required to complete, followed by a short video that vividly demonstrates how to complete the task. Also, the e-learning program teaches shop math and trade calculations, introduces to work documents, tool set-up sheets, the tools they’ll use, materials that they’ll machine with, shown the different cutting tools and operations, and then they’ll be shown how to mill a part as well as how to turn a part.

“With blended e-learning, we want trainees to learn the material, work on it out on the shop floor, pass the mini quizzes, and then move along to the next level in the training,” says Duggal, who describes blended learning as not just one thing, but many things that come together to reinforce the learning. “Throughout the training, we’re constantly trying to create a discussion and an interaction based on what they’ve learned. We’re trying to give them competency and expertise that will help them succeed.”

“After experiencing our training, people often comment that what we have created is very comprehensive” she adds.

Tailoring to Each Industry

In addition to developing content, WBLC also adapts the style of the training to reflect the industry being trained. For example, the e-learning created for CNC Machinists has a very different tone from the material created for the Graphics Installer Technician in the sign industry.

“With the graphic installer technician program, our approach is a little less industrial and a little more artsy,” explains Duggal. “We’ve delivered a different tone because that reflects how the people carry themselves and interact with one another. Whereas, the CNC Machinists tend to be more structured. Each industry has a different kind of energy and we want that reflected in our training.”

Beyond tone, the sequence in which elements are taught also can vary significantly. For CNC Machinists, the section about materials is introduced in the fifth module, but for the Graphics Installation Technician, the materials section is the second module because it is so crucial that trainees understand vinyl and what surface it can be installed on. Conversely, with CNC Machinists, they are taught about the machines and the parts first, then math and measurement, before turning the trainee’s attention to materials (e.g., milling steel).

“The focus is always on the trainee and what content will work best for them,” Duggal adds. “While it’s subtle, it can really make an important impact.”

Determining the Best e-Learning Approach

“We have an experimental mindset when it comes to developing e-learning and training programs,” says Duggal. “Today, animation may be the most effective way to teach something, but tomorrow some kind of AI transformation may be the best method. We’re always looking for new and effective ways to engage the audience. It’s about opening your eyes and saying ‘what’s the art of the possible’.”

As an example, learning and understanding technical language is one thing, but knowing how to weave it into general conversation on the shop floor is something else. For some of the trainees, it is further complicated by the fact that English may not be their first language. So WBLC decided to turn to artificial intelligence and create short simulations where trainees can practice weaving the terms into conversation.

Working with British Columbia-based artificial intelligence (AI) conversation company, Virtro Technology, WBLC created simulations to teach trainees how to integrate approximately 70 technical terms into regular conversations with managers and co-workers. During the AI simulations, trainees can practice and receive instant feedback. It’s proven to be remarkably successful.

“At the end of the day, what we’re doing is good teaching, good story telling and encouraging good interactions. It’s a fascinating and rewarding part of our industry, and what we do can really make a difference in the everyday lives of our clients,” says Duggal.

Beyond Profit: How Our Non-Profit eLearning Company Is Revolutionizing Upskilling

In an environment where many manufacturing companies for years have struggled to find entry level and mid-level skilled workers, a new approach was needed.

When people traditionally think about education and job training, people tend to get their education first and then apply for a job. This is a model followed by the traditional school and university or community college system.

“The traditional approach is what I call the supply-push model where we train as many people as we can and hope that they will then be hired by a company,” says Rod Jones, Managing Director of the Work Based Learning Consortium (WBLC). “The challenge has been that this had led to significant gaps for companies in manufacturing where they can’t find the workers they need. It’s been a problem that has been around for years.”

Jones notes that it often has led to employers trying to poach workers from other employers, which doesn’t solve the supply issue.

Employers can’t find the skilled help they need outside of a limited pool of workers and, in recent years, have faced the additional challenge of an aging workforce and reality of upcoming retirements.

At the same time, job seekers often find that they are unable to acquire the technical skills that makes them attractive to employer for in-demand positions.

Changing the Business Model for Upskilling and Reskilling Workers

WBLC has flipped this traditional education and training model upside down by working with employers to hire the employee first, and then provide the requisite training.
“We recognized that we needed to focus on the demand side and implement a demand-pull approach,” says Jones. “We work with industry associations and companies who are short of skilled workers and make them an active part of the process of building the skilled workforce they require. We also require that employers hire the candidates first and then train them.”

“We work with industry associations and companies (who become) an active part of the process of building the skilled workforce they require. Employers hire the candidates first and then train them.” – Rod Jones, Managing Director of the Work Based Learning Consortium

WBLC has placed a heavy emphasis on making sure people who are selected into a program and hired by a company are a good fit for the job that they are being hired for, and for which they will be trained. That means finding potential jobseekers who have the aptitudes and attitudes that will be a good fit for the relevant positions available.

“We’ve developed a demand-driven, employer engaged, competency based approach that has really proven to make a difference. It’s all based around seven principles that are core to everything we do.”

The seven principles include:

  1. Use objective, evidence-based competencies-based processes as the foundation for all selection, hiring, and training decisions and activities
  2. Be strongly industry-driven, with active employer engagement in defining competency-based job profiles/standards for each skilled job position and in delivering ‘on-the-job’ technical learning activities to achieve the defined technical learning outcomes
  3. Match job seekers with skilled jobs on the basis of the job-specific non-technical competencies required for job success, and provide competency gap coaching for those job seekers who are close to being a good match
  4. Be ‘demand-driven’ – build and/or deliver training programs to fill actual current job openings and require that employers hire Trainees as full-time, permanent employees at the start of their learning program (‘earn while they learn’) and/or nominate current employees as Trainees, to meet the company’s skills shortages
  5. Use a ‘blended learning’ method for technical training for job-specific technical knowledge and skills, which includes:
    • effective ‘on-boarding’ of Trainees and Company Trainers to the learning program
    • effective use of advanced learning technologies (e-Learning, VR/AI learning, micro-learning)
      • use e-Learning to carry the principal load for training but support as required with instructor-lead coaching on ‘hands-on’ skills e.g., use of hand and power tools;
      • closely align e-Learning ‘knowledge’ content with ‘practical skills’ learning on the shop floor
    • provide Trainees with structured experiential (on-the-job) learning guided by company job experts, who are well supported and guided in their training practices and have access to easy-to-use online tracking of Trainees’ progress
  6. Compensate employers for their key role in providing the Trainee with ‘on-the-job’ learning – subject to the Trainee’s successfully achievement of all required job-specific technical learning outcomes
  7. Use independent, valid, and reliable certification methods (competencies-based) to confirm Trainees’ successful mastery of all required technical learning outcomes.

“There are two controlling pieces in our approach,” adds Jones. “One is to set the job standard, meaning defining the technical learning outcomes for the position. This will drive the learning activity for our training program. The second factor is at the front end to make sure the people coming into the program are a good fit.”

A Proven Approach

WBLC has been able to demonstrate that this approach to training and reskilling employees is fast. Training is accomplished in less than half the time of traditional methods and it has proven to be reliable, with a 90% success rate. Finally, it also has proven to be very cost efficient, cutting in half the traditional costs of obtaining the skilled employees that companies need.

“Employers are very happy with our 90% success rate given that many hired had not worked in manufacturing before.” – Rod Jones, Managing Director of the Work Based Learning Consortium

WBLC has worked with more than 80 different companies, helping them to find more than 800 trainees. More than 90% of the trainees who have completed their training achieved WBLC certification.

“We’re proud of our success rate that 90% of trainees achieved their certification,” says Jones. “Many were young people (18-29), who had a high-school diploma and had not worked in manufacturing before. By having a job standard and a certification process, we’ve developed work-based learning programs that lays out a training process that brings trainees along and provides benchmarks that allow them to demonstrate they have learned the competencies set out in the job standard. It’s proven to be a winning model for employers, their trainees, the industry itself, and the government in supporting industry to increase productivity and prosperity.”

Contact Rod Jones to learn more!

Happy Holidays

Wishing all our partners, companies that work with us, and trainees a very happy 2021 holiday season.

Meet The WBLC

The Work-Based Learning Consortium (WBLC) has been established as the not-for-profit, federally incorporated organization to design and deliver work-based learning and certification programs.  These programs began under the banner of the Ontario Manufacturing Learning Consortium. The focus of the WBLC will be to expand the scale, scope and efficiency of proven, successful, competencies-based programs for many other entry- to mid-level skilled jobs in the manufacturing industry.

Learn more about the vision of the WBLC here >  
Meet the WBLC Leadership Team >