Do you provide a training program?
While interviewing job candidates, that is one of the most frequently asked questions we get.
For many new workers looking to begin their careers or break into a new industry, training is a very enticing feature of a job offer, and for good reason. Unlike compensation in the form of your standard paycheck, training imparts knowledge that never goes away and will compound over time.
And for many employers struggling to fill positions in this job market, training gives you an opportunity to hire candidates for other valuable skills, knowing that you can train them for the other gaps that may exist in their experience. You’re able to widen your pool of candidates without sacrificing the level of service your clients come to expect from you.
Training is also important to experienced professionals. In the automation field, technology is always evolving. Engineers also need to be familiar with a wide arrange of equipment, hardware, and software. Individuals want to have the opportunity to keep their skills current and to continue to expand their automation toolbelt through their careers.
It’s important to not overlook the basics. Companies should take the time to introduce new associates to their process and procedures. It is very tempting to rush people onto project work. In the long run, this approach has the potential to introduce issues which could create frustration for the individual, their teammates and/or manager.
For over 25 years now, Superior Controls has invested in and refined its automation training program into 65 online and instructor led modules within a company portal. Both recent engineering graduates and experienced engineers alike are provided with an introduction to the company’s procedures and work processes, from time and expense entry to our engineering project life cycle. The self-paced program also includes topics to familiarize individuals with the life science industry like Biotech 101, Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), Good Documentation Practice (GDP), and the essence of FDA mandated Validation. Most modules include embedded quizzes to ensure the concepts are understood.
The technical modules include basic electrical panel design, networking, PLC programming, Operator Interface creation, S88 Batching standards and, very importantly, our recruit is introduced to our extensive library of pre-validated software modules and validation templates that will ease life considerably once assigned to a project. Soft skills also include customer relations, teamwork communication, appropriate documentation of meetings, and the proper follow up of customer needs.
After completing those modules, each engineer is assigned to a hands-on training project for a small batching system. Steps involved in a training project include:
- Reviewing and understanding the scope of work
- Identifying the I/O for the system
- Completing an electrical design for the control cabinet
- Developing the design documents for the system
- Programming the PLC and Operator Interface
- And finally, testing the system
Engineers have the opportunity to simulate a system and use Good Documentation Practice (GDP) outside of an official project. During the training project, new employees are required to meet with a senior engineer at various stages. For example, the Input/Output list is reviewed and approved by the project mentor prior to proceeding to the electrical design.
It’s vital to note that adding Software Factory Acceptance Testing (SFAT) and Hardware Factory Acceptance Test (HFAT) is something that every integrator that specializes in life sciences and works with biotech industries should add to their training curriculum.
Within a short period of time, we’ve been able to train new engineers and give them a better understanding of our organization, automation and the life science industry. As a result, our engineers are better equipped to support their customers and projects. The combination of training modules and training project allows individuals to understand all the parts and pieces that go into the design, development, and testing of an automation system.
It has certainly not been easy or cheap to do, but this formal training program has paid dividends for us and our clients. And if this current job market shows us anything, it’s that you cannot afford to pass up on an investment in training.
Robert Patrick is Vice President of Engineering at Superior Controls, an E Tech Group Company. Superior Controls and E Tech Group are certified members of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). For more information about Superior Controls, visit its profile on the Industrial Automation Exchange.