- THE MAGAZINE
When it comes to cleaning and restoration, proper education is a must. After all, if you or your staff don’t know how to properly use equipment on cleaning jobs or aren’t familiar with the proper protocol that needs to be followed on water loss jobs, you’re setting yourself up for failure from the get go. But in an industry with so many venues for education and continued learning and development, just what makes for good training?
Is it a case of “the more the merrier” or “less is more?” And what type of training is better? Hands-on? Classroom learning? A combination of both? We posed these questions to two notable and successful professionals in the industry – Dave Keiter, Owner, Yellow Van Cleaning Services (Kearney, NE) and Amy Bloxam-Prihoda, Director of Sales & Marketing, Professional Carpet Systems & Professional Restoration Systems (Seymour, CT).
“In my opinion, the best type of training is that which puts the correct information in the hands of the tech when they are asked to perform a task.”
That’s Dave Keiter, who has been in the industry for over 30 years and currently oversees a staff of 48 that has accumulated more than 80 certifications, including four staff members with IICRC Master Certifications in one or more areas of expertise.
“Hands-on (training) is how we start all of our new employees, however to move from a ‘cleaner’ to a ‘craftsman,’ we depend on the classroom to give us a solid base of knowledge,” he says. “Classroom training allows the individual to move to a greater level of understanding of the technical components of the work at hand. It also gives the student a new perspective of what makes up the mechanics of the work we undertake.”
In the past year, this strategy has included bringing industry instructors into Yellow Van’s cleaning offices to educate staff members with a combination of classroom education and hands-on learning. The goal for Keiter is for employees to quickly and effectively learn the industry so that they become confident, engaged and – ideally - producing as a lead tech within 30 days of hire. Ambitious, yes. Impossible, no.
“We also combine classroom and on-the-job with a type of ‘coaching’ and constant evaluation,” Keiter says, referencing the Japanese word “kaizen,” which refers to the idea of continuous improvement of any process.
And “kaizen” can be seen in the continuing education that the company commits to. Keiter says they’ve attended training on everything from janitorial work to week-long sessions from both Jon-Don and Interlink Supply. Keiter himself is a student with Violand Management Associates’ Leadership Group, which regularly reads and discusses books on leadership. And Yellow Van’s restoration staff reviews water damage restoration basics with Reets.TV every Wednesday morning.
“Today, using online training, conventions, symposium through networking of suppliers and manufacturers, as small business owners, we do have access to the very best in knowledge and equipment,” Keiter says. “We can choose to be on the cutting edge of our industry.”
Like Keiter, Amy Bloxam-Prihoda hasn’t been shy about pursuing a variety of training opportunities for her and her staff. She says they’ve been through a variety of classes through the IICRC, to Chuck Dewald’s Vortex Drying School, to AmeriColor Dye Classes, classes at Reets Drying Academy and a variety of different programs with Violand Management Associates.
So what’s been the most beneficial? If you ask Bloxam-Prihoda, there are several factors that can impact what is gained from a particular training session.
“Some programs are more beneficial than others in my mind due to two reasons: First is the instructor component. An instructor that likes what they are teaching and is excited about the subject is always a fantastic person to learn from,” she says. “Second is the student component - students need to be engaged in the class and keep on subject to really make it so that everyone can learn from the course. Too many times you have someone or a group of individuals that keep taking the class off course or comment on things that are irrelevant to the subject matter. When this happens, it really degrades the quality of the class.”
As Bloxam-Prihoda notes, training is key to advancing your company and creating happy clients.
“I actually just heard from an industrial hygienist that we work for that he gets frustrated at times when he is working with a restoration contractor that is using practices and principals from over a decade ago,” she says. “Things are always changing and progressing. When you refuse to take new classes or change your practices, then not only do you suffer, but so does your business and your clients.”
So just what type of training does Bloxam-Prihoda think works for her and her staff the best? Like Keiter, she sees great value in a mix of hands-on and classroom education.
“In the field you will learn about the cleaning product that your particular company is using for prespray,” she says. “However, in class you will learn about the effects of the cleaning products on textiles based on their pH level. Field work is hugely beneficial to putting together all of the information that you learn in a classroom setting.”