Developing a Trades Learning Curriculum

Eric Mochnacz
March 5, 2020

Let’s talk about trades.  Roofers, electricians, plumbers, mechanics and any other type of skilled laborer are tradespeople who complete specialized education and or training, making them experienced and capable in their chosen fields. They are the people that repair your leaky roof, install new outlets in your home office, fix your broken toilet, and address the transmission issues with your car.  They gained their knowledge by attending a trades school, through an internship or apprenticeship program, or “on the job”, rather than through coursework at a traditional four year college or university.  Skilled workers are high in demand, and there is benefit to companies devoting efforts to developing a learning curriculum in their trades organization.

While their choice in career led them to alternative educational options, a skilled trades worker’s exhibited skill sets are crucial for entry into the workforce.  Once that initial training is complete, tradespeople look for jobs, move on to companies in their specific industries, and get to work.  But what’s next?  

Initial Planning

The size and scope of a trades learning curriculum depends on the size of the company, it’s organizational design, and the training the organization already has in place.  A clear training curriculum means your employees understand what it takes to rise in the ranks and grow their career.  If they have no idea what the next steps are, it’s time to start mapping out a learning and development plan.  A clear organizational design and training program allows employees to comprehend their career path  and take the initiative to create success for themselves and the organization by developing their skills and knowledge.

When creating and fostering that success, a viable company knows to place importance on their people as they are integral in moving the needle for the business.  Some key questions to ask before committing to the development of a learning curriculum are –  As a company do you encourage and provide learning and development opportunities for your employees? Yes? Great, do your employees utilize what’s offered?  If you do not have those things in place is there a reason why? Is there value in implementing something like this within your organization?

Addressing the Challenges

Traditional careers have more readily available, clearly outlined paths for development and learning than the trades.  There are different providers to evaluate skills and provide learning to bridge gaps as needed for most office and administrative careers.   However, trades do not have too much in the way of standard processes available, as each trade varies tremendously. There are safety standards, however how you guide and teach employees is up to the individual employer.

Because the continuing education needs of your people may be vastly different, there isn’t a standard trades curriculum you can find online and implement that will suit the needs you have for your people.  That means it’s up to you to decide what fits your organization by utilizing what is out there and developing what isn’t, by building it yourself.  We call this “buy or build”; investing money and resources into training that already exists or creating the training yourself to meet the individual needs of your work force.  This can be a daunting task, but Red Clover consultants have direct experience in creating learning and development curriculum for our clients.  

The First Steps

The first step in developing a learning and development curriculum is to identify the needs of your organization and your individual workforce.  It’s crucial to identify who you are as a company (your core values)  and how you do things (your company culture), then picking and choosing what learning is key for success.  We recommend a combination of basic office and soft skills, safety requirements and technical learning that align with the level of responsibility and expectations you have for your employees.  

Once that is identified, the next step is to create the learning methods and assessment metrics to quantify capabilities in a measurable way.  Develop key performance indicators (KPIs) for the curriculum itself and for the participants of the learning program.  These will answer the questions related to the success and efficacy of your curriculum.  Create and organize the process in a way for your people to understand the steps they need to take to scale up in the organization.  Putting the information in employees’ hands so they can take initiative and grow at a rate that suits individual contributors and the organization is key to setting your trades learning curriculum and your business up for success. 

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