Best bang for your training buck?

Tired of training that over-promises and under-delivers? Your maintenance training dollar, like most of your other dollars these days, is being stretched tighter than ever. While it's not always a good idea to go with the cheapest training option, there are some ways to determine whether or not the training will provide value for the money.

Objectives and testing

A well-designed course has clear objectives, and students are tested on the mastery of those objectives at the end of the course. This may take the form of written and/or performance testing, depending on the objective being evaluated. Asking a training provider for objective up-front can save your maintenance staff some wasted time.

Meaningful hands-on content

Ask the training provider for an approximate percentage of hands-on training a particular course has, as well as a description of the activities. Some courses are promoted with phrases like "50-percent hands-on," but what do the activities consist of? A product walk-around or a group of technicians watching an instructor perform a procedure can hardly be called hands-on, yet many courses include such activities as their hands-on time.

Worksheets provide a guide to the performance of a hands-on activity, and higher quality courseware has worksheets that are used to complement the hands-on work.


The best-designed training courses are actually less affected by instructor variances. Nevertheless, the instructor can often make or break a training class. Experience is certainly a factor. But more importantly, if a class is for service technicians, it should be taught by a technical person. I have been to several technician courses taught by members of the sales staff or managers with little technical background. Often in these classes, half of the morning is spent discussing why the training supplier's product is better than the competition's. This obviously has little or no value to your maintenance staff.


Caps and T-shirts are nice, but good training courses also offer take-away pieces that can provide further value after the training is done. These can include manuals, laminated charts, CD-ROMs, DVDs or similar items. It has been stated by the Workforce Training Research Center and others that trainees only retain 15 percent to 25 percent of what they learn in a training class, so reference pieces are often needed to fill the gap after your technician returns to the shop. Memorizing a procedure or specification is not as important as knowing where to find it quickly in reference materials.

Taking a little time up front to shop around for the best training program can reduce wasted training time and provide more value for your shop in the long run.

Stephen Howe is employed by United Rentals, the largest equipment rental company in the world, with nearly 700 branches in North America. He is also a past president of the Automotive Training Managers Council, a global nonprofit organization of more than 60 member companies dedicated to recognizing training excellence and raising training standards in the automotive, heavy vehicle and related industries.