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Continuing education and training: how is it used today?

Paper companies have many expectations for their continuing education and training (CE&T) programs. They need these programs to help improve operations and lower production costs while increasing product output and safety, among other issues.

To find out how paper companies structure and use their CE&T programs today, TAPPI conducted a survey with the help of Brandon-Hall and Talo Analytic International Inc. based on 52 interviews with managers at 12 of the top 20 North American pulp and paper companies. The survey focused on three key areas:

* Who are the decision makers for purchasing training products/services

* How is the training done (capacity to conduct training).

* What are the knowledge and skill needs and preferred training format


Not surprisingly, most CE&T decisions are made locally since mill personnel are more likely to know the training needs of their staffs. The vast majority of CE&T decisions are made at mill level (only 8% reported decisions made at corporate level). The production manager and the human resource department tend to be the top decision makers, followed by other department managers.

CE&T decision makers generally fall into one of two categories. More progressive companies (those willing to try and use newer electronic and web-based training) tend to make decisions using a combination of input from production and maintenance managers and from the human resources/training department. Companies relying exclusively on production and/or maintenance managers as decision makers tend to gravitate to the "old school" methods of training (such as classroom-based training). At present, the following are the top five methods for CE&T:

* Paper-Based Reference and Training Manuals (94% of those surveyed using)Classroom Training (91%)Mentors (63%)Electronic Based Reference and Training Manuals (50%)Self-Paced Computer Based Training (32%)

* When asked what people viewed as the most effective training, Classroom ranked the highest (51%), followed by Self-Paced Computer Based Training (24%).

* Not surprisingly the two biggest challenges related to CE&T are scheduling, cited by 22% of respondents, followed closely by the cost of the training (18%). Other key challenges included low motivation levels (16%), employees forgetting what they learned (16%) and getting employees to accept and use new training methods (10%).

The survey probed the challenges a bit further and found that pulp and paper mills clearly desired improved CE&T content and better ways of distributing that information. The top four responses are listed below:

* Easier access to answers on the mill floor (desired by 32% of respondents)

* Better traditional training manuals (26%)

* Better training content (16%)

* Content more customized to "my mill" (16%)

Budget factors play a major role in determining what type of training takes place within pulp and paper companies. The previous year's budget typically is the major determinant in current budgeting (64% of survey respondents cited it). Also, a link to a capital project is a determinant (12%), as is the number of employees in the facility (8%). Paper companies typically do not analyze their return on investment (ROI) of their CE&T programs. Drivers for new CE&T initiatives include:

* Improving operations

* Installing new equipment

* Reducing production costs

* Increasing product output

* Improving safety performance

* Managing downsizing

All of the pulp and paper companies in the survey (100%) did safety training. The CE&T survey reached several key conclusions about the status of continuing education and training in the pulp and paper industry today. Clearly, classroom and paper-based training are almost universal, while mentoring is also popular. While classroom training is still viewed as the most effective, paper-based reference/training manuals is rarely viewed as the most effective. Moreover, mentoring--the traditional training method where an experienced employee shows a newer employee "the ropes"--was viewed as less effective than classroom training or self-paced computer courses.

The training budget at most pulp and paper facilities is clearly tied to last year's budget and capital spending, with the implication that training is viewed as an expense rather than an investment with a ROI. Not one survey respondent indicated an ROI calculation being used in the decision process for CE&T!

Despite the preference for traditional classroom training, most companies are willing to try new electronic tools and integrate them with more traditional CE&T efforts. The survey found that most pulp and paper companies will use a combination of classroom and computer-based training in the future. Internet based learning (e-learning) and learning management systems seemed to be emerging as an area of interest within the more progressive companies, although at present e-learning is not used widely in the industry. The good news is that despite the tough business conditions in the pulp and paper industry today, 93% of those surveyed indicated their training budgets are stable or increasing.




* Who are the training decision makers.

* How they get training done.

* What are desired outcomes.


* E-Learning Industry Information:

* Ensuring Workplace Competence, by Jeffrey Gossett (TAPPI Press): This workbook guides trainers in the development of effective and efficient training materials in work settings. For information, go to and type the following product code in the search engine: 0101R256.

* TAPPI Virtual Seminars. Telephone and web-based training. For more information, go to and click on the "Virtual Seminars" link on the home page.



Eric Fletty is business development manager for TAPPI, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Contact him by phone at +1 770 209-7535, or by email at
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Title Annotation:Training
Author:Fletty, Eric
Publication:Solutions - for People, Processes and Paper
Date:Jun 1, 2004
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