The Elevator Learning Center

New training center, front view

D&D’s efforts to address labor shortages are expanding beyond itself..

It’s no secret that there is an ongoing labor shortage in the U.S. for all tradesmen, regardless of their affiliation. While participating in the annual industry gatherings, conferences and association events of 2017, conversations always came back to the same complaints — “There is no one available to hire” or, “We need more trained technicians.”

What happens if you spend all that time and money training employees, and they leave? A similar question was asked at a recent leadership meeting of corporate executives chaired by a prominent consultant, whose client list is a who’s who of corporate entities. Her response was heard loud and clear, “What if you don’t train them, and they stay?”

D&D Elevator Maintenance, Inc. has been delivering apprenticeship training for more than 15 years with great success. To allow us to grow at a reasonable pace, our goal has been to make sure we always had enough skilled workmen, while maintaining and enhancing our existing workforce. In 2016 and at the beginning of 2017, we saw a dynamic change in the workforce. Retirees outpaced new apprentices, and, rather than deal with the rigors of daily maintenance, repairs, modernizations and the installation of elevators, many qualified technicians opted to become inspectors and third-party witnesses.

So, how do you overcome a labor shortage? Train, train, train. Our plan for 2017 was to enhance our own training and add additional apprentices to ensure our growth model continued. With this new and worsening shortage in play, however, we identified the possibility of expanding the training model to companies that seek the common goal of using only educated and safely trained skilled labor. Once we started asking if there was interest from other companies, the answer was very clear: “If you build it, they will come.”

We started with the idea of building a scalable training model with continuing review milestones so it would not become obsolete in five years. Our new goal became delivering an innovative education model that other companies would find valuable and, at the same time, ensure the educational content is proven and accepted. The answer was using the nationally recognized and American National Standards Institute-accredited Certified Elevator Technician (CET®) program, along with providing additional delivery enhancements.

Each course of study in the CET program has been reviewed to build a complete instructor’s manual for enhanced delivery. This includes additional lab work and detailed comprehension testing to help supplement the normal accredited test procedures and skills-verification portfolios.

We have added a virtual-classroom component to ensure candidates have flexible ways to participate, ensuring they are able to complete the course in a timely manner. To ensure quality training, all the classes are taught by experienced and certified instructors. Other industry-related classes being delivered onsite are:

  • OSHA 10 and 30 course certification
  • Enhanced Elevator Industry Field Employees’ Safety Handbook training
  • Code-compliance classes
  • CET Supervisor classes
  • QEI and continuing-education classes (We have certified instructors for our QEI training.)
  • Enhanced maintenance delivery
  • 8-hr. fall-protection training

We deliver two weekly classes for apprenticeship and plan to add a third class for new year-one students in April. Our future goals are to allow other companies to train in our facility, either through our approved educational delivery system or a process created through contractor-related organizations. This training is expected to begin in the fourth quarter of this year. Our facility will also be providing certified testing, proctoring and graduate-placement services for entities that provide apprenticeship and recertification.

Working with human-resource professionals, we will be adding personal attribute and ethics training to help candidates understand the importance of communication, quality and professionalism. Thus far, the 2,500-sq.-ft. training center consists of: 

  • A full classroom setup servicing up to 25 students per class
  • Fully functional mockups of traction and hydraulic machine rooms
  • A shaft mockup with fall protection and rail-installation training aids
  • Old and new controllers with mechanical and electronic selectors
  • Several types of door operators and door mockups with connectivity
  • A complete fixture setup with connectivity to machine-room controllers
  • Motors, machines and machine components
  • Fire-service and emergency-communication aids for code-compliance training
  • Digital library with prints and manuals for schematic and layout training
  • Pipe threading and grooving equipment
  • Full cab enclosure and entrance training aids
  • Scaffold and false-car training

Additional training aids include governors, generators, sling, platform, counterweight frames, pit equipment and other shaft components for use in installation and modernization training. Other course offerings will include “Elevator 101,” where customers and building personnel can learn about the basics of elevators, along with specialty training for police, firefighters and emergency personnel.

Future goals are to offer certified training for welding and low-voltage systems, and manufacturer-approved continuing-education classes for systems and components. Also, we are working on enhanced training methods that include an online delivery database of component-specific training for member use and augmented-reality training using such technology as Microsoft HoloLens to provide 3D model creation with natural user interfaces.

We hope D&D’s new training center, certified and licensed instructors, and wealth of eager students will assist many other companies in their training initiatives.

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