It’s no secret that training and educational resources are a true must for the PHCP-PVF industry, and with the recent pandemic, businesses are taking advantage of virtual training more than ever.
Since shifting 95% of its course offerings to digital in 2007, the American Supply Association Education Foundation has been a staple for online training options. ASA provides four different education programs: ASA University, Master of Distribution Management, ASA ADVISE and its manufacturer training. Each of these differing programs are built upon one common principal; don’t just train for the sake of training; make the most out of a program by connecting it to different talent initiatives within an organization.
In the past five years, more than 9,400 employees of ASA-member companies have been trained through ASA University. More than 99,000 courses have been taken through ASA-U online, totaling more than 76,000 training hours.
ASA Education Foundation Executive Director Amy Black explains ASA University represents the backbone of the association’s education offerings.
“Our original focus was product knowledge training, and we’ve since expanded far beyond that,” she says. “There is an extensive process used to build courses and determine what courses need to be added, and what objectives for each of those courses are. If there is ever a gap in our course coverage, or if we need immediate resources, we use third-party content to round out the courses.”
Customization and flexibility are keys to what makes ASA University so successful. Many distributors don’t have the time or resources to create and maintain internal training programs for employees, Black notes. This is where ASA-U is able to step in and create a unique program focused on building leadership teams and creating succession plans. ASA-U, Black adds, understands the importance of finding and keep good talent, and it knows that providing training programs is an attractive way to find and engage employees.
“We are always working with and getting input from our distributor members,” she says. “Our MDM program is essentially our leadership training program. Many of our members use this program as a prerequisite for a promotion, or it could be required that an employee complete it before even being considered for a leadership role.”
Water supply system course from ASA-U. Photo courtesy of the American Supply Association.
Each ASA training course is made up of content that’s relevant to the happenings of the industry. The people who make this possible, in addition to Black, are the other expert advisors who regularly engage with members to gain feedback: Taylor Kenney, program development manager, Diana Bautz, education manager and Abby Jamroz, programs and services administrator.
These four staff members are dedicated to education and training for the industry, and work with a board of trustees, which is a mix of business owners and trainers from ASA member distributor, manufacturer and independent manufacturers rep firms, as well as other industry stakeholders.
“We make sure this group is truly representative of our industry; it includes independent distributors, national distributors and buying group representatives,” Black adds. “For special projects, and when we need to review our colleges and competencies and the MDM program, we will pull additional resources from trustees and subject-matter experts or volunteers that can help us with that program. At the end of the day, everything we do has our membership in mind.”
Earlier this year as the pandemic hit and its consequences began to affect the supply chain, ASA-U wasted no time responding with helpful resources for its members. In March, the association began offering 50 free online courses on topics such as remote working, managing remote teams and employee mental health.
“What we’ve realized is that many of these new courses needed to become a permanent part of our curriculum, so we added about 20 of these courses to our library,” Black notes. “We began to focus on recovery and resilience resources for our members, and we will continue to analyze what new topics need to be added to our permanent offerings.”
These free COVID-19 and resilience courses generated an overwhelmingly positive response. Between March 25 and June 30, 721 of these courses were taken; 1,849 of the free manufacturer training courses were taken and 345 new users came to ASA-U online.
Black explains for many members, lack of time is a huge reason for putting training on the back-burner, but throughout the lockdown, some had additional time to dedicate to it.
“It’s really great to have more members involved with our online training because we can focus on working with them to figure out how to meet their needs moving forward, and what we can provide to help them get past this,” she says.
When it comes to PHCP-PVF industry education needs, the bases are truly covered throughout the various ASA programs, and it’s clear resources will only grow from here.
Black mentions in addition to allocating time, getting started with training is a challenge, but a short introductory phone call can get ASA University experts what they need to begin building a unique program for member companies.
“I always ask people to give me a 15-minute conversation and tell me more about what they want, what challenges they’re facing and what the focus needs to be,” Black says. “I’m trying to make it as easy as possible. After that initial interaction, any one of us on staff can put together a recommendation and get them started on a customized training program tailored exactly to their company’s needs.”