Redefining Transportation Training
Just-in-time (JIT) isn’t a phrase applied only to manufacturing. While in the past JIT revolutionized how companies created goods, it is also experiencing a renaissance as a new method for streamlining training delivery.
JIT training happens when a person obtains information at the time they need to apply it, even if they are already in the field. Providing information at the time they need to apply it is a key to adult learning. Think about a highway technician going out to set up a work zone for the first time each spring after a winter spent plowing snow. JIT work zone training – via a work zone pocket guide app on their smartphone or a YouTube video focused on their specific type of setup – delivers needed information when the learner needs to apply the knowledge.
Training today doesn’t just happen when a person sits in a classroom with an instructor at the front leading the discussion. Local public transportation agencies and state DOTs recognize this change and are embracing it. JIT training streamlines the knowledge transfer process, cutting costs by focusing on training delivery at the time the information is needed. This reduces the overhead of scheduling employees to attend in-person training, travel expenses to and from training, facility costs, lost productivity while away from regularly assigned duties, etc.
JIT training sounds like the perfect solution for future transportation training delivery but hurdles still need to be overcome to provide a high-functioning JIT model. How do you document training occurred if the employee is watching a YouTube video on their phone to learn the work zone setup before actually doing it? How do you know the employee actually understood what was watched? Proof of training and understanding are critical components to mitigate liability if a crash then occurs in the work zone.
It also takes time and money to develop JIT training delivery components. Someone has to create a smartphone app or shoot a video and upload it to YouTube before the employee can utilize it for learning. While there are efficiencies to be realized by creating an app or video one time over providing in-person training in thirty sessions across a state, someone must make the initial investment to create the alternate learning tool.
State DOTs and the transportation community as a whole need to embrace the JIT training delivery model and find ways to make it happen with limited resources while addressing noted concerns. The newest generations of workers in the transportation field have shown they learn best with the JIT model. Who hasn’t seen a Gen Y or millennial family member fix the washer or dryer with the aid of a YouTube video and a screwdriver?
Now is the time to leverage the information of those who are soon to leave the field (that’s knowledge capture, a key component of knowledge management) and then use the information to create JIT or learning on-demand options. Creating a cadre of JIT training choices will provide new and existing transportation professionals with generationally focused tools to support our transportation system. This is how the generations currently entering the workforce learn best – JIT.
Victoria Beale is on the TRB Standing Committee on Education and Training and is the Ohio LTAP Center Director & Assistant Administrator, Office of Local Programs Ohio Department of Transportation