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

Liquid Fertilizer Storage tanks
State of the IndustryComplex Fertilizer Market Brings Mixed Feelings
January 5, 2016
Declining fertilizer prices and plentiful supplies should be good news for growers facing low crop prices. But they and their Read More
Asmus Farm Supply crop protection products in storage
State of the Industry2016 Crop Protection Outlook: The Guessing Game
January 4, 2016
One would naturally assume that retail sales of crop protection products in a contracted market would themselves be contracted, but Read More
Seed corn bags in storage
Special ReportsThe Outlook For Seed In 2016
January 3, 2016
Among all crop input categories going into 2016, the seed category has as many questions regarding which direction it will Read More
Wilbur-Ellis’ new fertilizer blending facility, located in Mott, ND, was designed by A.J. Sackett & Sons.
State of the IndustryBuying Intentions Survey: Retailers Taking A Prudent Approach In 2016
January 2, 2016
The CropLife® magazine Buying Intentions Survey made its debut last year to gauge current industry trends against the retailer’s plans Read More
Trending Articles
Eric SfiligojMissing The Family Ties In Agriculture
April 25, 2016
By its nature, the agriculture market is cyclical. Up and down cycles come and go with a regular pattern. For Read More
HerbicidesHerbicide Resistance In Waterhemp Continues To Grow
April 22, 2016
Twenty-five years ago, waterhemp was virtually unknown to Illinois farmers. Today, the broadleaf weed blankets corn and soybean fields across Read More
Eric SfiligojBiotech Corn Drop More Economics Vs. Consumer Rejection
April 18, 2016
Since their introduction into the agricultural marketplace, biotech crops has steadily grown in acreage in the countries of the world Read More
Crop InputsBayer: 5 Reasons We Disagree With Maryland Neonic Ban
April 12, 2016
We’re disappointed that the Maryland legislature chose not to stand up for sound science and the rights of Maryland’s homeowners Read More
Corn
OpinionChallenging Global Economic Conditions Putting More Heat On U.S. Ag Retailers
April 7, 2016
There it is. That vague, slightly sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach. Things are getting weird out there. Read More
ScoutPro iPad
Precision AgWhat’s Trending In Soil Testing And Scouting
April 6, 2016
Keeping up on soil testing and scouting, especially following unusual weather conditions, can play a role in maximizing yields. Soil Read More
Latest News
West Central Dome structure
FertilizerFertilizer Logistics 2016: All Clear, So Far
May 1, 2016
After a relatively hairy early start to the spring fertilizer movement season with flooding in Louisiana and St. Louis, things Read More
BAICOR
CropLife 100BRANDT Acquires Utah Specialty Fertilizer Company
April 28, 2016
BRANDT, a leading agriculture retailer and manufacturer of specialty ag products, has acquired a majority interest in BAICOR, L.C. BAICOR, Read More
Soybean field
Industry NewsVerdesian Life Sciences Adds Vice President Of Business…
April 28, 2016
Verdesian Life Sciences has announced the addition of Marc Treurniet to the plant health and nutrition company’s management team. Treurniet Read More
ManagementBiotech Crops Developments and Millennials
April 28, 2016
Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Paul Schrimpf talk about the latest activities in biotech crops and a major shift in the Read More
Industry NewsNachurs-Alpine, Pathway Biologic Extend Marketing Agree…
April 28, 2016
Nachurs-Alpine Solutions (Marion, OH) and Pathway Biologic (Plant City, FL) announce an extension to their exclusive marketing agreement specific to Read More
MicronutrientsCharah Add Three Warehouses For SUL4R-PLUS Fertilizer
April 28, 2016
Charah, Inc., a total solutions company providing unparalleled service and innovation for the coal-fired power generation industry, announced today that Read More
Spenser Forgey, Yahama Fortix
FungicidesIndiana Farmer Wins Arysta LifeScience FORTIX Fungicide…
April 28, 2016
Arysta LifeScience North America recently presented Spenser Forgey, a grower from Young America, IN, with a new 2016 Yamaha Grizzly Read More
Corn Field
HerbicidesNew Wilbur‐Ellis Herbicide Targets Volunteer Corn
April 28, 2016
Wilbur‐Ellis Co., a recognized leader in marketing and distribution of crop protection products, as well as precision agriculture technology, has Read More
StewardshipNRCS To Help Farmers Measure Conservation Impacts On Wa…
April 27, 2016
The USDA has announced the availability of $2 million to help farmers install edge-of-field stations that monitor water quality as Read More
Planter in Iowa
EquipmentTop 10 Twitter Pics For #Plant16
April 27, 2016
Despite some wet weather in parts of the Midwest, growers and ag retailers are working feverishly to plant this year’s Read More
HerbicidesHELM AGRO Launches New HELM Sulfentrazone 4F Herbicide
April 26, 2016
HELM AGRO US, Inc. has announced the federal Section 3 registration of its new HELM Sulfentrazone 4F herbicide. Classified as a Read More
Valley Irrigation Valley 8000 series on corn
EquipmentValley Irrigation Receives Environmental Stewardship Ho…
April 26, 2016
Valley Irrigation has been recognized as a Groundwater Guardian Green Site by the Groundwater Foundation. The Groundwater Guardian Green Site Read More
Eric SfiligojMissing The Family Ties In Agriculture
April 25, 2016
By its nature, the agriculture market is cyclical. Up and down cycles come and go with a regular pattern. For Read More
HerbicidesHerbicide Resistance In Waterhemp Continues To Grow
April 22, 2016
Twenty-five years ago, waterhemp was virtually unknown to Illinois farmers. Today, the broadleaf weed blankets corn and soybean fields across Read More
ManagementIllinois Leads The Nation In 4R Certified Nutrient Mana…
April 22, 2016
As Illinois agriculture works to educate farmers about minimizing environmental impact and optimizing the use of ag nutrients, Illinois now leads Read More
Social media
Matt Hopkins7 Social Media Trends Shaping Ag Retail In 2016
April 22, 2016
After writing my last column on why social media is a must for ag retailers, I heard from several readers Read More
Industry NewsArysta LifeScience Adds Corey Abels To Midwest Sales Te…
April 22, 2016
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced the addition of Corey Abels as Territory Sales Manager for the Midwest region. In Read More
Soybean Field
HerbicidesHELM AGRO US Unveils New Sheridan 25 WG Herbicide
April 22, 2016
HELM AGRO US, Inc. has announced the federal Section 3 registration of its new Sheridan 25 WG herbicide for selective Read More