Proactive Technologies Report – July, 2017

Economic Development Opportunities – An Important Incentive in Attracting Companies to Your Region

by Dean Prigelmeier, President of Proactive Technologies, Inc.

When organizations try to create new jobs in their area – working with companies that are considering moving to, expanding to or expanding within their areas – skilled labor availability for many regional economic development strategies may include an offering that consists of one part skills assessment, one part general skill classes and a sprinkling of worker tax credits or grants. That seems to be what most incentive packages include, but is that because: A) that is what the other offers look like; b) it has been like that for decades; C) it is assumed that is all that is available; or D) all of the above?

For over thirty years headlines sounded the alarm that those institutions that were training the workforce of tomorrow were not succeeding in their effort (see Proactive Technologies Report article, “An Anniversary That You Won’t Want to Celebrate: 30 Years Later and The Skill Gap Grows – Is it Finally Time to Rethink The Nations Approach?”). Many skilled workers that are available to work do not have the skills that employers need today. Not completely satisfied with their answer to the inevitable question regarding the region’s skilled labor availability and how workers with specific skill needs will be found or developed, some economic development organizations are exploring other options and opportunities.

It is important to understand that the types of skills that employers are most concerned with – especially employer-specific task-based skills – most likely have not been in the local workforce, nor have any programs been available in local institutions to develop them, simply because these new jobs, with new skill requirements, have never been in the area. The types of skills needed for most modern manufacturing and advanced manufacturing have never been developed because the need was not present nor the data on these jobs available. Even if the need was present, by the time the skill is recognized, a program developed and a worker completed the learning manufacturers either moved on or moved out.

Let’s face it, most organizations that promote their region for economic development do so on the current low cost of labor, right-to-work status, low business and employment tax rates, economic incentives, availability of infrastructure and quality of life. They probably never needed a system in place to develop the skills necessary to attract modern and advanced manufacturing. Companies interested only in geographical, financial and aesthetic incentives have already moved. Other employers understand that if they want higher skilled workers, they expect to pay higher wages now or later when those skill levels are reached and competition for skilled labor kicks in.

If we were honest with one another, community colleges and adult training centers are, at best, 10 -15 years behind the types of skills a prospective employee needs in order to learn and master the tasks required in modern facilities. It has always been like that, from time to time the gap surging deeper. The reason isn’t complicated; these institutions are designed as academic institutions first and have tried to fill a void in worker training with core skill development. However, they have never been embedded enough in today’s job environment to collect the job data necessary to be relevant nor have they applied the massive amount of government funding correctly to be that engaged.

“Whether attracting new companies and helping them thrive and expand, or helping existing business to do the same, this approach is an important component of any economic development strategy.”

I have written about another option for economic development strategies in past issues of the Proactive Technologies Report newsletter. For example, ”  Regional Workforce Development Partnerships That Enhance Economic Development Efforts . In another, “Apprenticeships That Make Money? Not As Impossible as it Seems Part 1 and “The European Difference and Part 2 of 2 – Setting Up an Apprenticeship Center”  I described one project that demonstrated a perfectly effective and inexpensive approach. For this project, Proactive Technologies was asked by a regional economic development office to attend a presentation in Germany for an employer that was considering a joint manufacturing venture in one of the state’s counties. Read More

Increasing Worker Capacity – An Alternative to Cutting Workers for Short-term Cost Savings

by Stacey Lett, Regional Manager – Eastern U.S. – Proactive Technologies, Inc.

In business, if you encounter market “softness” and believe that the business level that you were previously operating at is now unattainable for a limited period, you might first find cost cuts that do not erode the business capacity once held in case your, or the pundit’s, forecast was wrong or the recovery is swifter than anticipated. Sometimes investments are made in machinery and technology during the lulls to get ready for the economic up-turn, but too rarely is any effort made to determine the level of each worker’s current capacity (i.e. what percent of the tasks they were hired to “expertly” perform) relative to the job they are currently in and what could be done to increase it to handle not only existing technology and processes, but the new technology and processes as well. One might even think about cross-training workers to build “reserve capacity.”

Too often, in this age where every quarterly report has to be as good or better than the one before – actually earnings per share – even if the economy currently doesn’t allow it, well-run businesses are pressured to cut into the bone; driving down wages, cutting benefits and ultimately eliminating workers. Investment in new technology isn’t permitted. It doesn’t take an accounting genius to make sweeping, ill-informed cuts, but it does take a pretty savvy leader to pick up the pieces after this mistakes have been made. When the economy recovers and the company stumbles in regaining

“That is the one point missed in all of the cuts to wages, benefits and staff; the first wave affects those who have no choice, the second wave affects the company as those with choice exercise it.”

its capacity, heads roll, more cuts are made and finally the investors pull out – leaving the previously well-run company impaired or near collapse. No good has come from this, and why it is allowed to continue makes no sense – except that it takes little thought to order, gives Wall Street the appearance of something good happening and something to report. That is why stocks rise when layoffs are announced – even in the face of predictable long-term effects of what the cost cutting means. That and the media’s cheering section that naively extols a short-term bump that may turn into a long-term fumble.

Worker capacity will be needed once the economy resumes, and the prudent businessman would not want to miss the recovery while spending too much time rebuilding the organizational capacity, part of which is finding “talent” to the replace the ones encouraged to leave and part trying to encourage the ones currently employed to stay. Additionally overlooked, employee and management morale suffers during wholesale cuts and irrational cost-cutting acts. The workers needed to sustain a recovery and regain market share are affected by what they see happening around them, and those most talented keep one eye on the door because they have the skills other employers might appreciate and always have the option to leave. That is the one point missed in all of the cuts to wages, benefits and staff; the first wave affects those who have no choice, the second wave affects the company as those with choice exercise it.

An alternative to knee-jerk cuts to workers is to assess each worker’s capacity (i.e. what percentage of the tasks of the job they have had a chance to learn and master), then use business “lulls” to raise it to full job mastery. Read More

Is an Apprenticeship Without Structured On-The-Job Training an Apprenticeship?

by Dean Prigelmeier, President of Proactive Technologies, Inc.

Career and vocation-focused training is a pivotal point in every current and future worker’s life. This world is overwhelmed by forces that make the effort more difficult for the education and training providers, more urgent and critical for the learner, more scrutinized by the employer and constantly measured against time; how long the training takes (which determines costs) and the relevance of the skills acquired to the targeted job which is always moving to the next level of technology. If the training is not “continuously improved” and maintained to be predominantly current and accurate, the graduate may find that jobs for which the new-found skills were targeted now marginally or, even worse, no longer exist.

In theory, apprenticeships offer a promising approach for traditional trades and crafts. As of 2008, more jobs can be registered as apprenticeships with new models accepted by the U.S. Department of Labor. If the program is based on a sound structure and methodology (one that can work for any type of job classification), an apprenticeship capstone – the job-related, employer-based training – would be maintained current and accurate for at least the employer apprenticeship host. Without this component, an apprenticeship experience may be as hollow as some of the for-profit educational chains which are often criticized for high costs and low placement rates.

“No one would ride in a plane flown by a pilot with only classes and simulator time, have surgery by a surgeon that hasn’t yet operated on a live human, or receive a root canal from a dentist with no “live-patient” time. Certified mastery of the tasks that define each of these jobs is what makes the ‘license to practice’ credible. And there is a difference between ‘a pilot” and ‘the pilot.’ Having a pilot license certifies you to fly planes, not a specific plane; you still have to have training and be certified to apply your craft to flying that plane. With the hybrid approach to apprenticeships, both are accomplished at the same time.”

The term “apprenticeship” has taken on many new meanings in the rush to increase the number of apprentices in the United States. Some 2-year community college programs that have been around a while have been re-branded in an effort to give new life to the same programs of worker development. Some have been thrown together to position an organization for the anticipated flood of grant dollars to find apprentices. Many of these are less “employer-centric” and more “industry-friendly” in spirit. Yet, it is important to remember that the ultimate beneficiaries of an apprenticeship should be the apprentice, the employer, the community, the industry and then the workforce development community, in that order. This should always be the focus and priority.

The process of gaining a “certificate of apprenticeship completion” level status can be an important milestone in an apprentice’s life. Achieving it can be accelerated by the focus and relevancy of related technical instruction and implementing employer-based structured on-the-job training, the latter for which mastery is also the measure of accomplishment for the apprentice and employer. Both components are critical to the quality of the program. Shortening the time without focusing these two components can weaken the program’s credibility and legitimacy. That is why many states require the employer to perform a job/task analysis on the job targeted for registration to ensure the structure, content and process is in place to document and explain what job-tasks have been mastered. That is what is most important to the current employer and any future employers.

These two requisite components were established in the middle-ages, albeit modernized for today’s needs, and have served us well when implemented properly. The United States Department of Labor – Bureau of Apprenticeships describes an apprenticeship as this: “It is a unique, flexible training system that combines job related technical instruction with structured on-the-job learning experiences.” The Bureau of Apprenticeships offers 3 models it accepts; the traditional Time-Based, the Competency and the Hybrid models. Read More

Changes in ISO 9001: 2015 and Any Effects on Worker Training 

by Dean Prigelmeier, President of Proactive Technologies, Inc.

There are many excellent business reasons for employers to capture the best practices, knowledge and expertise of their star performers before they leave the organization through separation or retirement. In a recent Proactive Technologies Report article entitled, “Retiring Workers and the Tragic Loss of Intellectual Property and Value,” explains the high cost of this missed opportunity, leading to the subsequent inability to more quickly and completely train new workers to replace them. Also explained is how so few employers are taking the challenge seriously.

Collecting detailed, best practice task procedures is vitally important for the accelerated transfer of expertise™. A company can lose substantial sums through unused or underdeveloped worker capacity. This impacts quality yield and may lead to costly scrap and rework decisions. Having consolidated “tribal knowledge” and expertise into deliberately delivered structured on-the-job training programs – which drive new-hires and incumbent workers to “full job mastery” – captures this unrecognized worker value that accounting systems have, sadly, been unable to document or measure. The April, 2017 Proactive Technologies Report article entitled, “Estimating the Costs Associated With Skipping Employer-Based Structured On-The-Job Training” discusses approaches to quantifying this unrealized worker value.
Now, there is another reason for capturing best practice task performance and all of its related knowledge and compliance specifications. The new standard ISO 9001: 2015 took effect September 15th, 2015. A transition period of three years will allow affected departments to make the necessary adjustments, but Quality Management Certificates issued under the old standard, ISO 9001: 2008, will have to include the new date.

Re-certification audit planning for the new standard must be performed at least 90 days prior to expiration, in other words by September 14, 2018, and the last audit day cannot exceed the deadline or a full, initial audit must be performed. The new standard includes a couple of changes that make the new standard easier to implement with other management systems, and focuses more on management commitment and performance and less on prescriptive measures.

The new standard includes a couple of changes that make the new standard easier to implement with other management systems, and focuses more on management commitment and performance and less on prescriptive measures. The standard has a new structure called a “High Level Structure” and introduces the concept of “risk-based thinking.” The emphasis is on organizations identifying risks to standardize quality performance and taking measures to “ensure their management system can achieve its intended outcomes, prevent or reduce undesired effects and achieve continual improvement.” The revised standard also puts increased emphasis on achieving value for the organization and its customers; in other words “output matters.”

The process approach introduced in 2000 as the desired model for quality management systems will become an explicit requirement of ISO 9001: 2015. The standard requires understanding the needs of the clients or customers, end users, suppliers and regulators and the words “document” and “record” were replaced by “documented information,” acknowledging the need to broaden the concept in recognition of the advancement in information handling technology.

The new standard has more emphasis on requirements for competent performance of personnel, competence meaning “being able to apply knowledge and skill to achieve intended results.” The important role that structured on-the-job training has played so far in ISO/AS/TS compliance now becomes even more critical.

Those companies that already have the Proactive Technologies PROTECH© system of managed human resource development  in place already in place already meet the requirements structurally with regard to personnel competency, but management may need to show more commitment and understanding of the important role this plays in quality control. Those who have not addressed the earlier requirements for process-driven training in all the major models of quality management – ISO/TS/AS – should begin now to build the infrastructure if they want to meet that requirement under the new standard. Read More

What Makes Proactive Technologies’s Accelerated Transfer of Expertise™ So Effective

by Proactive Technologies, Inc. Staff

There are a lot of buzzwards thrown around these days. “Skills Gap,” Education-Based Apprenticeships,”STEM” – many confusing to those in management whose primary function is to ensure products and services are delivered in the most cost-effective and profitable way.

For anyone unfamiliar with Proactive Technologies, Inc.’s Accelerated Transfer of Expertise™program, it might help to clarify what makes this approach to worker development and continuous improvement so effective.  This unique approach, in practice since 1986 and always improving, was designed by someone who endured the pressures of maintaining the highest quality staff in a world of constant change and pressures to do more with less. 

We start by collecting a lot of data about each job classification that is all around anyway (e.g. people’s heads, operator’s notes, engineering processes, quality standards, EHS specifications). This spread of information, that isn’t readily available, makes learning and mastering the tasks – for new hires and incumbents – unpredictable, ineffective, open to conflicts (including legal), costly and not conducive of standardization of high performance. And the continual revision of all of these bits of information adds to the challenge and makes process improvement and implementation efforts difficult, at best.

Many times we find that tasks are not proceduralized for best practice performance; either not defined at all or defined vaguely as “Perform _____,” leaving it up to each new trainee to guess what was intended. We job/task analyze the missing bits and work with engineering, quality and management to make sure we have the best, best practice before we develop any training or certification tool from it. 

Our proprietary software allows us to quickly gather and consolidate the many sources of data for use only when and where needed. Our technical support, 12 months (renewable) included in every project, allows your organization to focus on business while we set the programs up and manage them for you. Our software automatically generates all of the tools of the human resource development process to allow for big-scale projects at a small-scale investment; from today’s job description and entry level tests, to structured on-the-job training materials and checklists, to technical procedures and performance appraisals. One revision updates all of the tools! The system keeps track of each trainee’s training progress and provides detailed reports.

We build structured on-the-job training programs to ensure each new-hire and incumbent worker has an accelerated path to job mastery through mastery of each best-practice task – with content-valid assessments for more accurate and compliant selection and legally-defensible assessments to measure progress toward, and achievement of, job mastery. Each structured on-the-job training program we set-up can, and has been, easily registered as an apprenticeship (an option for your firm) that adds little-to-no cost.

We have projects, some lasting as long as 17 years, for clients that include an engine component manufacturer with 40 unique job classifications, 300 employees at 2 plants that spanned 10 years without the need, as with all of our projects, to expand their HR staff or add a training department. Whenever your organization feels it is ready to bring management of this project inside, we would be happy to license your firm with our latest version PROTECH© system of managed human resource development™ software, install it with your firm’s data, teach your designated staff to administrate it and still be available for technical support. 

This approach is proven to lower the internal costs of training (e.g. the cost declines per each added trainee) while increasing worker capacity, work quantity and quality, compliance (ISO/AS/TS, EEOC and safety) and worker return on investment. This approach supports “legacy knowledge capture” required of ISO 9001:2015. 

Many state worker training grant funds can be used to implement the structured on-the-job training we set up and we anticipate you would be eligible to recover most, if not all, of your investment to set-up the structured on-the-job training programs and technical support, which documents and reports each task mastered for reimbursement. So the funding is probably there, and we will help you with the application and to present the project for approval. 

We understand that you may have been driven to cynicism by the buzzwords and ineffective attempts at worker development you might have already tried, and Proactive Technologies is confident that once you realize the power of this workforce development approach you will be a believer. That is why we offer a “pilot project approach” so you can try the approach out on one of your job classifications first before scaling it up. Minimize the risk so the case can be made internally to scale-up based on successful results. And you will be surprised how little an investment is needed to get started! 

It would be worth your time to consider this approach. Please feel free to contact us  for more information or attend one of our free, live online presentations. Proactive Technologies would enjoy an opportunity to work with you and your firm and would do everything we can to help you make your project a success. Read More

Read the full July, 2017 newsletter, including linked industry articles and online presentation schedules.

Posted in News

Upcoming Live Presentations

< 2018 >
  • 7:00 am-7:45 am
    (Mountain Time) The philosophy behind, and development/implementation of, structured on-the-job training; the many benefits the employer can realize from the PROTECH© system of managed human resource development in more that just the training area; examples of projects across all industries, including manufacturing and manufacturing support companies. When combined with related technical instruction, this approach has been easily registered as an apprenticeship-focusing the structured on-the-job training on exactly what are the required tasks of the job. Registered or not, this approach is the most effective way to train workers to full capacity in the shortest amount of time –cutting internal costs of training while increasing worker capacity, productivity, work quality and quantity, and compliance.  Approx 45 minutes.
  • 1:00 pm-1:45 pm
    (Mountain Time) The philosophy behind, and development/implementation of, structured on-the-job training; how any employer can benefit from the PROTECH© system of managed human resource development in more that just the training area; building related technical instruction/structured on-the-job training partnerships for employers across all industries one-by-one. How this can become a cost-effective, cost-efficient and highly credible workforce development strategy – easy scale up by just plugging each new employer into the system. When partnering with economic development agencies, and public and private career and technical colleges and universities for the related technical instruction, this provides the most productive use of available grant funds and gives employers-employees/trainees and the project partners the biggest win for all. This model provides the support sorely needed by employers who want to partner in the development of the workforce but too often feel the efforts will not improve the workforce they need. Approx. 45 minutes
  • 7:00 am-7:45 am
    (Mountain Time) This briefing explains the philosophy behind, and development/implementation of, structured on-the-job training; how any employer can benefit from the PROTECH© system of human resource development in more that just the training area. This model provides the lacking support employers, who want to be able to easily and cost-effectively create the workers they require right now, need.  Approx 45 minutes.
  • 1:00 pm-1:45 pm
    (Mountain Time) The philosophy behind, and development/implementation of, structured on-the-job training; how any employer can benefit from the PROTECH© system of managed human resource development in more that just the training area; building related technical instruction/structured on-the-job training partnerships for employers across all industries and how it can become an cost-effective, cost-efficient and highly credible apprenticeship. When partnering with economic development agencies, public and private career and technical colleges and universities, this provides the most productive use of available grant funds and gives employers-employees/trainees and the project partners the biggest win for all. This model provides the lacking support needed to employers who want to easily and cost-effectively host an apprenticeship.  Approx. 45 minutes

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