Training is an Investment, not a Commodity

Posted by Kevin Beck on November 13, 2013
Training is an Investment, not a Commodity
Kevin Beck, COO, Building Performance Center, Incorporated.

When I first caught the home performance “bug” in 2003 I had to train myself how to do all this stuff. Sure, I had an advantage, being a contractor and home builder for the 30 years but, for this new industry, there were no mentors to turn to so that I could learn the proper techniques on how to remediate homes to make them more livable and energy efficient.

I received some pretty decent training on the diagnostic testing procedures and the “standards” that deal with health and safety, but there was little out there to learn the nuts and bolts of fixing what we had found.

Thank goodness for the utility companies and their educational programs. At least there was something we could grasp onto to enlighten us a little bit more. I put a lot of miles on my truck back then attending any and all trainings offered through the utilities on everything from insulation installation to sizing of combined-hydronic systems for our climate. The trouble still remained: although these were cool new topics to explore, the depth of them was about as deep as a kiddy pool.

We have to remember that there have been carpenters and builders since biblical times but the birth of home performance is less than 50 years ago. That’s a blessing and a curse for those of us who have embraced this new industry. It’s so new that we have little competition, but to learn how to do it properly is problematic because there aren’t that many experts out there and there is certainly no Home Performance University to go to. Heck, I’d be fine with a Home Performance Night School! They simply don’t exist, yet.

Until that day comes, we who are serious about this biz must seek out our own training and education. We must be selective as to content and applicability, where and when we attend trainings, and who they are delivered by. The training landscape has changed post-ARRA funding…thank goodness.

There are still remnants of those revolving door organizations out there that treat trainings as a commodity, not as an investment by the student. Some training organizations are trying to compete on price and/or duration, which are the worst things that could have happened to this industry. If you’re basing your training selection on the shortest time for the least cost, you are probably going to get what you paid for. Unfortunately, it is your clients who will suffer from this short-sightedness. There is so much to learn and know in this business and the downside is that if we don’t get it right people may get hurt or even die. That’s a heavy responsibility, and you need to own that.

Next time you’re seeking that next class or training to attend, think of it as an investment. How much return on your investment will that class bring? What new information or techniques will you learn that will better serve your clients? Think about what you lack inside your own company that you could learn how to do yourselves. Zero-in on what you don’t know or understand. Don’t be a training groupie. You know the type—they’re at every training but have accomplished nothing. They don’t put anything into action nor do they dig deeper to fully understand topics.

We’re home performance professionals and we need to start acting like it. Don’t waste your hard earned cash on “quickie trainings” when you really need to fully grasp and understand a concept. Seek out training organizations that have been around awhile and have perfected their delivery systems to better serve the working contractor. Most of these organizations have blended learning options that let you complete some of the course at home, at your own pace before attending hands-on classes at a facility.

If you’re in weatherization and/or home performance, look for companies who have attained the new ANSI-IREC accreditation for training centers. These places have been vetted by both ANSI and IREC and have to maintain a high-level of integrity and performance as well as student monitoring and assistance. They are audited annually to maintain this prestigious designation. They win, you win, your customers win.

Train smart. Don’t take training just for the heck of it unless your only purpose is to network. Have a mission, a purpose before attending any training, and go there ready to learn. Leave your cell phone in the truck and concentrate on the learning. If you’re serious about increasing your knowledge and skill sets, play the student and soak it all in.

See you in class!


Kevin Beck is the COO of the Building Performance Center, Incorporated.

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