If you’ve been in the trades for any period of time, you’ve probably attended (or at least been invited to attend) a training class or seminar offered by a manufacturer.
While these in-person classes, including the ones we offer at Viega, have largely been put on hold or moved online due to COVID-19, they’ll resume eventually so this is a good time to think about what goes into a worthwhile class and how you can tell whether to accept that invitation.
There are few things more frustrating than investing time, money and travel in an on-site training and not getting the results you want. With that in mind, I’ve put together a checklist of ways to determine if the trip would be worth it.
- Ask people who’ve done it.
Has anyone else from your company been to this manufacturer’s programs? They would be a great source for information on whether it was valuable. Even if they went to a class other than the one you’re interested in, they can speak to the overall quality of the manufacturer’s program. If no one from your company has attended, ask around your local contractor community. Odds are someone has been to one and would be happy to fill you in.
- Make sure what’s being taught is what you want to learn.
This seems obvious, but nothing ruins a trip like discovering mid-class that you already know the subject matter being covered or it’s knowledge that you’re not going to be able to use on the job. Read the description closely and don’t be afraid to ask specifically what topics will be taught. And make sure it’s up to date. Technology, resources and materials change constantly.
Also, ask yourself how you plan to use the skills and knowledge you acquire from the class. You should have a plan to put your new capabilities to work and know how they would fit into your company’s offerings. Knowledge for knowledge’s sake is fine in some circumstances, but it doesn’t always add value.
- Check the facilities.
Contractors are often asked to work under sketchy conditions, but that doesn’t mean you have to learn under them, too. Ask where the class will be taught and how the classrooms are equipped. If a manufacturer has a dedicated facility for instruction, odds are they’re serious about doing it right. Class size is important, too. Customizable class sizes allow for attendee engagement and more one-on-one time.
- Check the instructors.
Will the instructors know what they’re talking about? You can expect them to know all about their products and equipment, but do they have the broad background and field experience to answer questions about real-life situations? Don’t be afraid to ask about their credentials.
Odds are, you’ll be in a class with people with varying levels of knowledge and experience. Can the instructors teach to industry veterans as well as those new to the trades?
- Will you get your hands dirty?
Classroom instruction and theory are important, but contractors are hands-on types of people. And there is no better way to learn a technique or master a piece of equipment than doing it yourself under the eye of a qualified instructor. Make sure any course you attend, whether it’s designing software or pressing pipe, gives you plenty of opportunity to try it for yourself. That’s the best way to make sure you’ll be able to put it into action back home.
- Make sure it’s more than a sales opportunity.
Of course, every manufacturer who hosts a training program is hoping to win converts to its tools and products (Viega included). That’s no secret. But making sales shouldn’t be the primary focus of the session; that’s taking advantage of a captive audience. The emphasis should be on practical learning, not selling you something.
Keep this checklist in mind and you can be confident that your next training trip will be a good one.