If a recent large-scale assessment is accurate, maintenance employees across multiple North American industries lack the skills needed to perform their work safely and efficiently. The study, by Technical Training Corporation, assessed the skills of several thousand maintenance personnel across the USA and Canada.

The results were disturbing. Eighty percent of those assessed had less than fifty percent of the skills needed to do their jobs. Inadequate skill levels lead to unnecessary downtime due to breakdowns and improper maintenance. Risks of injury increase as employees lack the skills to safely work with equipment. Productivity—and morale—both drop.

Successful training methods can solve these problems, but before you start training, you need to implement a robust maintenance skills assessment program to properly identify the skill gaps in your workforce.

Management Involvement is Crucial

Management commitment is essential when creating a maintenance skills training program. The program will require cash investment, and an understanding that skill-related problems will not resolve themselves overnight. Skills assessment and training produce relatively few immediate gains, but a robust training program yields a wide range of long-term benefits, including:

  • Decreased downtime

  • Fewer breakdowns

  • Higher morale

  • Increased productivity

  • Increased equipment efficiency

  • Longer equipment life

  • Lower maintenance costs.

Tying maintenance skills training to mission critical business goals helps get management on-board, as well as increased safety, product quality, and productivity: the Department of Education estimates individual employee productivity goes up 8.6 percent when education is increased by ten percent.

Establish Baselines and Goals

To properly assess whether maintenance skills training is having a positive impact on your workplace, you need to establish baselines. Ideally, your baselines will include the last twelve months of data from areas such as:

  • Downtime / uptime

  • Employee overtime

  • Equipment breakdowns

  • Inventory parts and costs

  • Preventative maintenance

  • Scheduled maintenance.

Baselines allow you to track changes caused by training effectively, without assumptions or predetermined attitudes coloring results. It can take over six months before changes caused by successful training methods become apparent.

Literary Concerns

The report from Technical Training Corporation revealed another disturbing trend among maintenance employees: low literacy proficiency. In some areas of the United States, maintenance personnel read at or below a grade eight level, on average.

Assessing literacy as part of your maintenance skills training program is essential, as otherwise successful training methods will fail if employees lack the skills to read and absorb information. Literacy training may be required (a matter that requires delicate handling, as it’s not uncommon for employees to be defensive about low literacy skills).

Job Analysis and Skills Assessment

For training to be effective, you need to know exactly what skills are needed for each task your employees perform—a time-consuming but essential process. Each employee’s skill set must also be assessed, to discover any missing skills or areas of knowledge.

Skills assessment is best performed by a certified outside source, to ensure each assessment is valid and free from preconceived notions about employee ability. By comparing employee skills to job tasks, you can tailor training to individuals, rather than using expensive “one-size-fits-all” training methods that pull all employees out of their regular work schedule at once.

Choosing Successful Training Methods

You have your choice of a range of successful training methods, some of which will be more appropriate to your facility than others. In-house training and mentoring are possible solutions, although such training can stretch your workforce and reduce productivity during training. Few facilities have the luxury to use in-house training exclusively.

An effective, but expensive option is to pay for employees to attend technical college courses. Such courses require a serious commitment from both employee and employer, and demand a significant time investment on the part of the employee. Depending on the course, what’s learned may not fully prepare students for work in your facility, or it may teach skills that don’t apply to your needs.

On-site or live online training are both affordable and successful training methods. Delivered by industry experts, TPC Trainco’s intense, hands-on two-day seminars cover a wide range of maintenance skills, and can be customized to reflect tasks and issues specific to your facility. With seminars aimed at teaching employees of all levels, we offer cost-efficient, time-flexible, successful training methods.