3 Questions Featured

8:00pm EDT July 5, 2010

Frank Tinus is the dean of corporate services and continuing education at Stark State College, where he has taught since 1993. Prior to his move to higher education, he worked for more than 20 years for several Fortune 100 companies, including Procter & Gamble Co. and PepsiCo Inc., and smaller firms in a variety of roles.

Q. Are there any particular areas or skills businesses are focusing on in regard to training?

There is the whole area of maintenance. We’re about to get into a real tough bind, where all the true artisans of maintenance are about to retire. Skills like reading blueprints, taking measurements, understanding what troubleshooting is, being able to repair a system that has mechanical difficulty, electrical difficulty, electronic or hydraulic difficulty. That’s the kind of training we see people coming back for, because they understand they’ve invested a lot in machines, and they know the machine system isn’t doing as much for them as it can do.

Q. How can companies monitor training results?

We don’t trust positive feedback on the smile sheets employees fill out at the end of training. We look at things like scrap rates, what is called in the maintenance world the operating time between shutdowns. These are some of the measurements of the hard skill training. In soft skill training, you look for things like turnover going down, grievance reports, numbers of coaching and counseling sessions that take place. If we can reduce those, we consider the training to be successful. And the best way to judge training is to talk with their supervisors three to six months later and ask if it worked.

Q. Why should a business turn to a college or university to provide training for employees?

Colleges and universities really are in two separate businesses. They’re in the business of the pursuit and the granting of degrees that involves general knowledge and research. But they’re also in the business of instant, immediate response to short-term challenges — training. Some people wonder if that’s really the business of a college or a university. It absolutely is. Colleges and universities don’t have to be one or the other, and they can serve different sets of valid customers with different needs.