The dynamic nature of industry today means that the competency and training needs of individuals are constantly evolving. One of the advantages of e-Learning – the flexible delivery of training via interactive media such as CD-Roms, the internet and intranets – is that it can provide manufacturing and engineering organisations with extremely effective, economical and consistent training courses for their employees. The courses do not rely on the experience of an instructor and are engaging, interactive and motivating for employees.
Corus Northern Engineering Services (CNES), the engineering services organisation within the Corus Group, is now offering a range of e-learning training courses - including industrial and professional engineering training, health and safety, and induction training - to customers outside the Corus Group, tailored to customers' specific needs.
According to Nick O'Hara, Business Development Engineer for Professional Training at CNES, many training courses are traditionally 'pedagogical' in their approach. In other words, the courses are reliant on the experience of the instructor(s), and are therefore personal, inconsistent and often lacking in crucial information. Furthermore, competence assessment can be open to abuse and the courses are generally open to interpretation and not interactive. O'Hara comments: "The more modern approach, and the way we do things here at Corus, is to be andragogical in our training techniques. This means having a learning environment that is active, engaging, student-centred, and where the training is initiated by the person's inner drive, not by an instructor. Therefore, we have developed a range of e-learning training courses which use the interactive, andragogical methods. This can involve simple self-assessment questions, right up to full-blown simulations of plant, processes and systems."
Benefits for employers and employees
E-learning courses offered by CNES make use of a range of innovative techniques and media. These might include interactive CD-Roms, internet, intranet, audio/voiceover, instant feedback mechanisms and audit trail information. The courses are stimulating and engaging, cost-effective, easily translated and offer consistent messages. Students can also learn at their own pace and at their own PC. But there are benefits for the business too. E-learning courses free up resources, because employers do not need an instructor, the courses are repeatable and consistent in their delivery, and they encourage employees to learn by their own mistakes.
As O'Hara points out: "Shoving a training or corporate video in front of a group of new employees is not an effective training technique, but many companies do it. E-learning is the most effective technique for training your employees. Over the years, studies into learning techniques have shown that around 10 per cent of what we read, we actually remember. 20 per cent of what we hear, we remember. 30 per cent of what we see, we remember. 40 per cent of what we see and do, we remember. 50 per cent of what we see and hear, we remember. But 80 per cent of what we say, we remember, and 90 per cent of what we say and do we remember.
"Although we manufacture steel, Corus and CNES have built up a wealth of training expertise in many areas that we are now applying successfully to other manufacturing companies outside of the steel industry. These courses include materials handling, project management, risk assessment, ATEX/DSEAR, condition monitoring, health and safety, and induction courses. Our training providers are practising engineers. Every course we deliver, Corus has been through the pains of meeting that particular bit of legislation itself, and so we think this gives us an edge when it comes to providing training to other industrial companies. We know what is practical and how to interpret that legislation for the customer."
CNES offers courses tailored to customers' specific needs. On the materials handling side, these courses include training relating to forklift trucks, electric overhead cranes, slinging and rigging, skid-steered loaders, and oxy-fuel burning.
Professional engineering training includes courses cover project management, risk assessment, statutory legislation (including ATEX, DSEAR and COMAH), condition monitoring awareness, health and safety, and company induction training.
O'Hara concludes: "In reality, pure e-learning will never replace the traditional pedagogical approach to training, as companies will always require some level of instructor training. But companies need to find the right balance between the two."