Shaun Hughes, regional sales manager at Victaulic, discusses why training is a win-win for both the engineer, installer and manufacturer alike, and explores why learning is no longer confined to the physical
For many businesses – especially self-employed tradespeople - a day’s training can be seen as a day’s loss of earnings, but it can really pay dividends for business and career growth in the longer-term. Keeping up to date with industry best practice, plugging gaps in knowledge and refining skills are all essential elements that will give any construction engineer and contractor the edge in a competitive market.
It sounds like a no-brainer, but the reality can be quite different. Engineers and contractors, for example, can find their own development taking a back seat to the daily demands of running and operating a business. Many are, naturally, reluctant to take a day off to further their learning. Thankfully, manufacturers are providing answers to the professional conundrum, with many bringing training online and embracing digital tools like never before.
Of course, keeping the standard of education high in a virtual world comes with its own unique challenges but its benefits to the industry should not be discounted. For, if the construction industry’s transition to virtual learning continues smoothly, it could pave the way for a future devoted to digital education. The baseline for growth is already strong and many of the pieces are already in place. For example, virtual events and webinars have increased in number while podcasts are seeing great feedback and growing listenership. For virtual learning to continue to grow we need to take the best parts of these popular formats and build on their success.
This was our idea for Victaulic University, an online education portal built primarily for our internal colleagues in 2011. We split our educational courses into three categories: two business units (Fire Protection and HVAC, Portable Water and Hydronic Balancing) and one key industry concepts module. Within the three categories, visitors can choose from three educational platforms: Self-Paced Online Courses, Instructor-Led Sessions or Live Webinars.
While these are not revolutionary technologies, they all build on industry best practice. Online courses (made up of diagrams, videos, interactive images and tests) and webinars (delivered via video call) are not new, but through a portal, we’ve been able to deliver them at a higher volume and to a larger audience. We are particularly proud of our Live Webinars, which are uploaded on to a virtual calendar so visitors can create their own diary of educational events.
And with the technology already in place, changing habits of industry professionals, including rising levels of digital literacy is catalysing it’s use. It’s creating the necessity to move virtual learning from a supporting tool of physical learning to the primary format, through the creation of habit.
The really interesting part is – it’s working. With increased comfort and familiarity with the tools at hand, usage is blossoming, and not only among our staff. Historically our Victaulic University was used exclusively by internal teams, yet we have opened our portal to an external audience, inviting our contractors and clients to take part in courses that otherwise would have been delivered face-to-face.
Viewers for Live Webinars have already totalled over 6,000 in recent months, indicating a strong sign up rate. With such positive signs, we have already decided to continue offering online learning to our client base, as well as looking into creating more courses about industry relevant topics.
So, although virtual learning is relatively new and is obviously delivered through different platforms and mediums, the fundamental advantage of training remains the same. Training provides our customers with the opportunity to learn about new developments and products, not only giving them a competitive edge but also the means to boost their career growth. By improving their own knowledge, our customers will also have the confidence to provide the end-user with sound expertise and wise counsel, helping to grow their reputation by acting as a trusted advisor.
But, arguably the most important case for investing in training is reputation – and not just that of the installer. Comprehensive training is vital to ensure that industry professionals get the most from every application and helps to protect and uphold standard. And, in turn, that means protecting the standard and reputation of our industry.