Changing Face of Training

20 Sep, 2005 By: Robert Green

A business-focused program will please users and management -- and it’s not difficult to develop

In this issue of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter, I’ll tackle the topic of training. Training is an important responsibility for the CAD manager, but it requires the right perspective and the right tools to be effective. I have some advice that will help you develop training programs that benefit your staff as well as please your management. Here goes.

A Quick Note About my CAD Manager’s Survey

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Please pass along this information to anyone who doesn't subscribe to this newsletter.  My goal is to surpass last year's response base and develop the best database of CAD management information on the Internet.

Changing Training Landscape

CAD training has changed a lot in the past 20 years, and CAD managers must roll with the changes.  As CAD has become more commonplace and employees come already trained from technical and engineering colleges, the need for old-line CAD training has fallen off.

CAD training used to be about sending your users to a classroom environment where they spent several days learning all the features of a software product.  In the old days, little attention was given to which features users really needed to learn. Instead, in a scattershot approach, all users were trained on all features.  The result was that many users came back from training with little knowledge they could apply to their jobs.  Users left the building for several days and came back not much more productive than when they left.  And we wonder why management grew skeptical of CAD training?

Today, CAD training is typically an informally defined process driven by the CAD manager, using additional resources to help deliver the material.  We no longer operate in a “train all users on all the features” environment, but rather one in which users are trained in the specific features they need to do their jobs.  More often than not, training is restricted to several hours rather than several days, and measurable results must be evident immediately after training.

The bottom line is that your management no longer expects to invest large amounts of money in CAD training for new personnel -- and rightly so!  After all, shouldn't recent graduates be equipped to step into a job straight from school?

So Why Train Users at All?

A reasonable question, don't you think?  If every new hire knew CAD backward and forward, there would be no point in training them, right?  Yet we still hear daily requests from users for more CAD training.  So where is the disconnect, and why is it happening?

Of course users always want to know more about their CAD applications, and they’d love nothing more than for you to train them.  But as the CAD manager, you really should be asking, “What do my users need to know to do their job?,” not “What would my users like me to teach them?”

It's All About Procedures

My observation is that effective CAD training is no longer about the CAD program -- it’s about how to use the CAD program within your company’s specific environment.  So we really shouldn’t be providing training on CAD software these days, but rather on CAD standards and procedures that improve productivity for our companies.  When you think about CAD training in these terms, it becomes a different mission with totally different requirements.

For your next CAD training session, ask yourself the following questions, keep track of the answers, and you’ll generate a much more topical and compact training program:

· What are the things users ask about often?

· Which standard procedures are we lax on enforcing?

· What could I teach users in one hour that would give them immediate payback?

Take some time to write down the answers and build a list of training topics that can be delivered in short, modular chunks. Then prioritize them.  Attack your training topic list in order of the payback each topic delivers for your users.  You might not be teaching many CAD software features, but you’ll get results for your company.

Delivering the Training

If you’re going to revamp your training approach to a shorter, more modular curriculum, you’ll need some tools to help you do so.  Here are a few products I’ve found to be of great help.  Most have free trial versions available so you can try before you buy.

Modular Training Materials.  These training materials are delivered electronically so you can print/copy/use the chapters and topics you deem appropriate.  You control the content delivered to your staff.  I’ve used CADDEX materials over the years with great results and have been very impressed with 4D Technologies’ blending of support and training into a bundled knowledge system. 

Testing Diagnostics.  Sometimes knowing what to train is a function of knowing your users’ weak points.  To that end, a testing program can really help identify users’ strengths.  I’ve used AutoTest Pro by Academix Software with great results.  If you are considering a testing program or just want to interview new hires, this software is worth a look.

Video Captures.  In cases where you’d like to show your users how to do something, you can create your own computer video captures much more easily than you might think.  The clear advantage to video capture is that it can be placed on your network so users can replay it whenever they want, at no additional cost.  You could even capture entire training sessions for replay later.  I’ve used a software utility called Camtasia Studio from Tech Smith and its associated audio dubber, DubIt, with great success to create audio/video files that can be played using Windows Media Player.  If you’re going to deliver a training class, why not record it?

Homemade Handouts.  These are the training materials you make yourself to address company-specific procedures and processes for which “store-bought” materials simply aren’t available.  The advantage to homemade handouts is that they are targeted materials that show exactly what users see on their desktops. The disadvantage is that you must spend the time to make them.  Just use Microsoft Word, screen captures and some well-placed text to create surprisingly effective training handouts.

Wrapping Up

Although a lot has changed in the world of CAD training, a few aspects have not changed -- and I doubt they ever will:

· Users always want more training.

· Training budgets are sparse.

· Training budgets are frequently the first thing cut.

· Management always questions the need for training.

I encourage you to use some of my advice to approach your training tasks with a business-focused perspective that gets results for your company.  Using a new mindset and some of the newly available technical resources on the market, you can craft an entirely new approach to training without too much expense or bother.

I’m willing to bet your management team will be so impressed with your new approach that they’ll never question your training requests again. 

Until next time.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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