There was strong support and evidence for the development of the WMC’s Online Management Skills Training Program when it was first established. Our 2016 labour market study confirmed the need for the program is as great as ever. The Executive Summary noted “a need for new and improved management skills” as one of the top human resource trends.
The report says that “62 per cent of businesses reported they are affected by a need for new and improved management skills to some extent or a great extent”. The most common occupations for which businesses have some difficulty or a great difficulty hiring include cabinet makers (46 per cent), wood machine operators (44 per cent), and supervisors (plant management) (40 per cent).
When businesses were asked to anticipate occupational shortages that will occur in the next five to 10 years, they often identified the same three occupations that present the greatest challenges today: wood machine operators (49 per cent), supervisors (plant management) (40 per cent), and cabinet makers (47 per cent). Businesses believe the occupational gap will increase the most for other entry level workers (10 per cent), operations managers (manufacturing) (8 per cent), supervisors (plant management) (7 per cent), and other experienced workers, such as installers (7 per cent). Wood manufacturing employers were asked to identify the skills most critical for their workplace. These were: quality control (85 per cent), operating new equipment and machinery (82 per cent), and technical skills needed within different subsectors (82 per cent). While other sector stakeholders, such as educators, industry associations and labour groups found these skills to be of importance, they also noted that managerial skills (100 per cent) and innovation skills (95 per cent) are critically important to businesses in the sector.
The Management Skills Training Program is aimed at wood products entrepreneurs who need to learn about and implement various management systems in order to delegate responsibilities and focus on business growth. Management or supervisory-track employees within our companies, of all sizes, who need to gain new skills to move into positions of greater responsibility can benefit, as can employees who need to understand specific functions within their company in order to do their own jobs more efficiently (e.g. salespeople who need to understand how production decisions are made and vice versa). Lastly, if you are hiring people from non-wood products backgrounds who are preparing to take on supervisory or management roles in the industry, this program can provide tremendous industry-specific training for them.
The UBC Centre for Advanced Wood Processing delivers the Management Skills Training Program in the form of a set of nine short, affordable online training courses. Each module has email and phone support from a tutor. Program development was funded by the WMC and it is open to all. The course modules each require approx. 35-45 hours of study over a six-week or eight-week period (depending on the module).
They are written specifically for the wood products industry and include numerous case studies and industry examples. Graphics and diagrams are used extensively. Participants can either take just one or two individual courses to fill a particular interest or gap in their knowledge, or they choose any six modules (or five plus a supervised individual project) to obtain a WMC Management Certificate qualification. Each module is normally offered at least twice a year, and learners move through each course together, interacting and sharing information and experiences.
So what specifically is in there for you and your employees?
Each course module contains a variety of key learning outcomes, as identified by the industry and educator representatives of the steering committee that developed the program. One of the most popular, the Quality Management and Control module, sees the learners identify the needs for quality control systems and describe the costs and benefits of quality control and quality awareness programs. Participants learn how to develop quality goals and they consider systems to track and tools to reduce quality costs. Learners use statistical analysis tools (spreadsheets, check sheets) and graphing tools to monitor critical areas. They also develop acceptance testing methods for critical materials and analyze and illustrate QC data and describe key aspects of a successful QC program implementation. For this course, MS Excel spreadsheet skills are required.
For this particular module there is a real synergy with the delivery by the UBC Centre for Advanced Wood Processing. They manage and administer the WOODMARK Quality System, which was created by the Wood Products Quality Council (WPQC). It was formed in 1997 with a goal to aid manufacturers in the wood processing industry in their quest to deliver ever-improving value to their customers, while improving overall efficiency and profitability of their operations.
To do this member companies must adopt the total quality principles and practices administered by the council. Quality management and benchmarking provides the framework for companies to examine everyday activities, identify opportunities for improvement and continually strive to complete the best possible results. The WOODMARK Quality Certification Program is based on the WOODMARK Quality System (WQS). This industry-specific certification program focusses heavily on benchmarking, process measurement, skills and training development and creating a culture of quality excellence throughout your organization.
For the Factory Planning and Equipment Justification module, participants should complete the Business Finance and Investment Evaluation module before taking this one. Learners analyze data (quality and production) to assist in equipment justification decisions and they describe the true cost of capital acquisitions, including initial costs, training, installation, maintenance and parts costs. They also develop equipment proposals including cost savings, quality improvements and impact on existing manufacturing conditions. The course has participants explain the main decision affecting the layout and design of a modern secondary manufacturing facility. They also learn to describe the impact of the plant design on production method, cost, training needs, inventory requirements, product quality and production scheduling and evaluate alternative layouts in terms of product throughput, cost and profit.
In the Production Planning module, the learning outcomes include the ability to develop detailed data collection sheets to conduct time and motion studies. Students become familiar with production management techniques and how they relate to types of products (standard, custom); types of processes (projects, batch production, mass production, continuous production) and fixed versus variable costs. Students learn to describe Lean manufacturing methods and explain the various types of production documentation (route sheets, bill of materials, product structure sheets, etc.). They use tools for break-even analysis (e.g. payback, operating costs, etc.) and explain key measures such as labour productivity, yield, and units per hour. They also explain important factors in ‘make versus buy’ decisions (outsourcing) and become familiar with the capabilities of production scheduling software.
And there are six additional modules in the Online Management Skills Training Program.
We will look at some of their learning outcomes in future columns. We know from the feedback of participants that have completed various modules that there is much value and much to be learned from this program, which was developed thanks to the fine work of volunteers from industry and education.