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May/June  2004

Trainerís Corner
    Training: Advice and Ideas

Getting Started
by Dale Malcolm

Twenty-five years ago I had a very different idea of what training was. My first boss sent me out to install a couple of storm doors on a 200-year-old farmhouse. I had never installed one in my life. As I gathered up my tools, I asked if someone was going to show me how to install the first one. I was promptly told, ďThatís what the instructions are for Ö and donít let the customer see you reading them!Ē That was my first impression of training.

I have always remembered two things about that day. The first is those two doors were, to this day, the most difficult I ever had to install. The second was that I promised myself never to put someone else in that position. 
Over the next few years I learned quite a bit about all types of glass work.

Into the Fold
Auto glass in the 1980s was hard work, but the installations were simpler and the margins were higher. Many of the installations were gasket-set and required practice as well as knowledge. Skills and knowledge were passed on from installer to installer through on-the-job training. New information came from auto glass publications and word of mouth. In the mid-1980s I found myself managing my first store for the glass company I worked for. The economy was good and unemployment was low. It was almost impossible to hire experienced auto glass installers. This is when I learned to be a trainer.

One day I found myself with four new trainees and a parking lot full of cars waiting for new windshields. I was fortunate to have a large shop and we pulled six cars inside.

I quickly taught the first trainee everything from pre-inspection to removal of the windshield wipers and set him to work. The second trainee was shown how to remove mouldings, the rearview mirror and how to wash and prime the new glass. I demonstrated the use of a cold knife and kit scraper for the third trainee and instructed him to vacuum out the vehicles after the opening was scraped clean. The last trainee was put to work priming the pinchwelds and running tape kits.

Before you knew it, we had a regular assembly line going. I ran from man to man coaching and correcting. This went on for several days with each trainee learning the limited portion of the installation procedure until it was second nature.

I remember one of the trainees telling me that he had his fill of his assigned tasks, so we started all over with a rotation in assignments. By the time several weeks had gone by, each of the trainees had performed each of the various steps and mastered them all.

One day I realized they were ready to put their new skills to the test. The look on each installerís face was priceless when told they were going to each complete a car on their own from start to finish. They knew all the steps and it was time to go solo. I did a lot of running between cars in the shop, but we got the work out while creating four installers in the process. 

A Good Trainer
A good trainer is creative, flexible and patient. I remember one creative shop foreman in a neighboring shop was faced with getting some of his new installers ready to go mobile for the first time. He had each of the installers load up a van as if he was going on a mobile run. Then he had them pull across to the far side of the parking lot to work on the cars they had loaded up for. He was able to keep an eye on them and they were instructed to notify him every time they had to come back into the shop for some tool or other missing item. They learned very quickly what tools and supplies they would need when it was time to head into the real world. 

I look forward to exploring the many different aspects of training and hope to feature some of the best trainers in our business. If you have a great training story you would like told or know a top trainer that might like to share their experience, give me a call at 800/246-4405, extension 23.


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