Employee Training: The Power Of Facilitating Learning

Allen Summers

Say the words safety training and sooner or later what you’ll hear next is a comparison equivalent to watching paint dry. Day-long training sessions with 4-inch binders and delivered by Mr. Monotone have taken their toll on participants over the years.

Early in my career, I was exposed to some exceptional training that left quite an impression. In fact, the little old lady chasing me away from the mock spill scenario with a cane was completely unexpected and served its purpose of facilitating the learning process quite well. I’ve never forgotten that experience or the lesson learned that day. It was the first time I stopped to consider the difference between training and facilitating learning.  

The facts and skills associated with the typical training experience are of little use without understanding. The process of facilitating learning exercises the participant’s existing capacity to reflect on the problems they have encountered and engages them to apply their knowledge and skills to find workable solutions. Our experience has shown the best learning experiences come when we immerse the participant in an environment that is as close to real life as possible. When it comes to teaching the four-day Emergency Response to Agricultural Incidents course, participants are practically entertained by the real-life equipment and the wide range of spill/release scenarios based on actual incidents we have been involved with over the years. The course builds both in intensity and complexity over the four days. Participants love it because they are eager to see what is in store for them next. It’s obvious to both the participant and their employer when the learning experience is relevant and presented in a meaningful context, because a greater understanding is achieved and more importantly, retained.

An Agricultural Background

Being raised on a farm, I genuinely enjoy the agricultural industry, especially the people. By nature they are much like MacGyver, the talented TV star from the 1980s who, when given a pack of chewing gum, a roll of duct tape and two clothes pins, could repair a 747 airplane while in flight. This kind of unique skillset is what drives the need for hands-on learning experiences and makes participants receptive to opening their minds and willing to learn new things. Overall, the participants we interact with are mechanically-inclined and possess a very high level of problem-solving skills. While this can challenge non-ag instructors, it proves beneficial when participants are immersed in a hands-on environment rich in equipment, scenarios and other visuals.  

There are several ingredients to facilitating learning, but perhaps the most important is the lead instructor. It is absolutely essential the instructor has the experience of “been there-done it” over a respected number of years. Anything less isn’t credible and results in run-of-the-mill training. Delivering a high quality learning experience consistently, especially over a four-day class, requires passion and a certain charisma, not to mention stamina.

When it comes to scenarios and equipment, we’ve all heard about the training held in the parking lot at a hotel. You know the one where a 55-gallon drum with a hole in it is turned over creating a mock spill. I suppose it’s better than no training at all, but it’s not what we’re talking about when we describe the process of facilitating learning. One key to effectively facilitating the learning process, is having the right equipment available, in sufficient quantities, that is specifically designed to illustrate and support the points being made. This is critical to delivering a high quality experience, but often shorted due to the cost of the equipment. It’s also an important element to immersing the participant in a realistic environment.

We’ve responded to the needs of ag in building five hands-on courses. With the launch of the new grain course later this summer in Bloomington, IL, we will have invested more than $1 million over the past decade in scenario equipment, training props and related equipment.

The First Of Their Kind

Four of the five courses are the first of their kind to be offered in the U.S. In the case of the Ammonia Technician Course, a client approached us and asked that we develop a course specifically for the personnel responsible for the mechanical integrity of the equipment used to store, transport and apply anhydrous ammonia. There are any number of courses that teach product safety and transfer procedures, but none that met the description of the client’s request. In talking with the client, it became obvious that part of the issue is the information on how to properly maintain ammonia equipment isn’t being passed down from one generation to the next effectively. There seems to be the older, more experienced personnel that typically has 20 to 30 years experience with the product and equipment. This generation of workers is naturally aging and retiring, while the new younger generation entering the workplace doesn’t have the experience the desire to work with ammonia. This generational difference is essentially what precipitated the need for the new course. One year and $220,000 later, the Ammonia Technician Course was launched to sold-out classes.  

You don’t have to be down on the farm long these days to figure out that technology, especially that used in the spray application of crop protection products, has advanced at a rapid pace over the past decade. We were asked to bring back the old Professional Applicator Training with current new equipment, and an added emphasis on spray technology — especially nozzle and controller equipment. This course made its debut in November 2011 and there are 36 classes scheduled around the U.S. for 2012.

An important part of facilitating learning is monitoring and measuring the end result. In every course, we utilize evaluation sheets and require the participant to complete and hand them in at the end of the course. Participants are prompted for new ideas they would like to see or that would improve the course in the future. This has been an important part of our program since the beginning and I never get tired of reading the comments. Some of the best ideas come from participants feedback.

We’re excited about expanding the number and scope of real life training opportunities over the next decade. Education literally means “to lead forth,” but most instructors want to “pass on,” information which encourages “surface learning” of facts or the performance of narrow skillsets. I hope you will consider the switch from just training to actually facilitating the learning process.   

Leave a Reply

State of the Industry Stories

State of the IndustryAgriculture’s Troubled Waters
March 3, 2014
Water quantity and quality issues threaten to hamper agriculture on a wider scale in the not-too-distant future. Technology breakthroughs and improved practices are providing potential solutions. Read More
State of the IndustrySponsor Profiles: Simplot, SST And WinField Support CropLife State Of The Industry Report
January 8, 2014
The sponsor partners of the CropLife State of the Industry report have demonstrated ongoing leadership including their support of this report. Read More
State of the Industry2014 State Of The Industry: Agricultural Concerns Creep In
January 2, 2014
With many strong sales years under its belt, the agricultural community is hoping for another positive growth experience in 2014, but mindful of a few challenges that might keep this from happening. Read More
State of the IndustrySeed Systems Top Watch List
January 2, 2014
Retailers are closely following herbicide tolerance and drought resistance traits. Read More

Trending Articles

EquipmentAdvance Your Technology IQ At MAGIE
August 13, 2014
The Midwest AG Industries Exposition (August 20-21) is the place you need to be to see, study and evaluate how new advances in the equipment, operations, crop protection and fertility sectors can help your business prosper. Read More
HerbicidesScouting Key To Next Season’s Soybean Herbicide Program
August 12, 2014
When growing soybeans, growers need to think ahead to stay one step ahead of weeds. That means examining weed threats and evaluating which herbicides work best. Read More
StewardshipMichigan Agriculture Leaders On Toledo Water Ban: We Want To Be Part Of The Conversation
August 8, 2014
Leaders of Michigan agricultural organizations said Thursday that the government should not have a “knee-jerk reaction” based on last weekend’s water ban in Toledo due to fertilizer run-off in Lake Erie. Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Acquires Lemon Ag Services
August 4, 2014
The acquisition of Lemon Ag fits BRANDT’s aggressive corporate strategy of providing superior agronomic advice and services for customers in central Illinois. Read More
Eric SfiligojThe Resurgence Of Crop Protection
August 4, 2014
Plenty of new offerings over the next few years should see a rebirth for the crop protection products category in terms of market share. Read More
LegislationUSDA Implements Key Farm Bill Crop Insurance Provision
July 30, 2014
The new Supplemental Coverage Option, available through the federal crop insurance program and set to begin with the 2015 crop year, is designed to help protect producers from yield and market volatility. Read More

Latest News

SprayersUniversity Of Illinois Introduces New Spray App
August 18, 2014
University of Illinois Extension has released a new smartphone app for making sprayer-related calculations. Pesticide Spray Calculator, or Spray Calc, Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta Names New Manager Of Federal Government Relati…
August 18, 2014
Laura Wood Peterson has joined Syngenta as manager of federal government relations, based in Washington, DC. Read More
ManagementExpert To Discuss Farmland Value, Rent At Farm Science …
August 18, 2014
While cropland values in Ohio increased in the past two years, they have remained flat in 2014, declining in some cases, according to an Ohio State University agricultural economist. Read More
EquipmentDeere Announces Factory Layoffs
August 18, 2014
Deere & Co. has announced it will reduce the size of its manufacturing workforce at some agricultural equipment factories in response to current market demand for its products. Read More
HerbicidesNew DuPont Afforia Herbicide Gives Crops A Clean Start
August 18, 2014
DuPont Afforia is a preplant herbicide for soybeans and other field crops that provides excellent burndown and residual control of many challenging weeds, such as marestail and waterhemp. Read More
Equipment21 Products Showcased At MAGIE 2014
August 18, 2014
The annual Midwest AG Industries Exposition is upon us. Here is CropLife IRON's look at some of the products visitors can expect to see at this week's event. Read More
EquipmentAGCO Seeks Nominations For 2014 Operator Of The Year
August 15, 2014
Ag retailers throughout the U.S. and Canada are encouraged to nominate their best applicators. Read More
EquipmentAdvance Your Technology IQ At MAGIE
August 13, 2014
The Midwest AG Industries Exposition (August 20-21) is the place you need to be to see, study and evaluate how new advances in the equipment, operations, crop protection and fertility sectors can help your business prosper. Read More
ManagementCropLife’s Buyers’ Guide Issue Now Availabl…
August 13, 2014
One of our most read issues of the year — the August Buyers' Guide — is ready to download on the iPad. This popular issue features equipment for "In The Field," "At The Plant" and "In The Office." Read More
WebinarsWebinars On Demand
August 13, 2014
Register for one of our upcoming Webinars or access our archive of past Webinars to view recordings of presentations that may be of interest to you. Read More
HerbicidesBASF: Fall Burndown Benefits Go Beyond Weed Control
August 12, 2014
While unpredictable weather may delay application timing of spring herbicides, more growers are adding a burndown application in the fall Read More
HerbicidesScouting Key To Next Season’s Soybean Herbicide P…
August 12, 2014
When growing soybeans, growers need to think ahead to stay one step ahead of weeds. That means examining weed threats and evaluating which herbicides work best. Read More
StewardshipNitrogen Efficiency Supports Environmental Stewardship
August 12, 2014
As growers prepare for another harvest, it’s important to consider how nitrogen stabilization not only supports healthy plant growth but also fosters environmental stewardship. Read More
Seed/BiotechMycogen Seeds Introduces 19 New Corn Hybrids For 2015
August 12, 2014
Many of the new hybrids feature Mycogen's SmartStax Refuge Advanced technology for maximum protection of the genetic potential and planting convenience. Read More
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences Introduces Enlist Ahead App For Enlist…
August 12, 2014
Designed for use with the Enlist Weed Control System, the app is a precision agriculture tool for maximizing weed control performance, managing weed resistance and making responsible applications of Enlist Duo herbicide with Colex-D Technology. Read More
CropLife 100CHS Announces Senior Leadership Team Changes
August 12, 2014
Current CHS strategic leadership team member Shirley Cunningham will assume a new role as executive vice president and chief operating officer, Ag Business and Enterprise Strategy. Read More
ManagementFormulation Chemist Enhances Capabilities For AgriThori…
August 11, 2014
AgriThority has added accomplished formulation chemist Roy Chen to its team of associates supporting new and emerging biotechnologies and conventional chemistries. Read More
Crop InputsPurdue Creating Center To Support Soybean ‘Value …
August 8, 2014
Purdue University is establishing a center that will combine the broad-based expertise of dozens of faculty and staff members coordinating research, Extension and education to advance the production and use of soybeans. Read More