Tom Stephan is the training and education manager for Xylem Inc. Stephan can be reached at [email protected].
The water well industry is changing quickly. For industry professionals to succeed, they need to engage in continuing education to keep up with the latest developments. Well-trained professionals in the field means increased efficiency and productivity, and fewer service calls and customer complaints. A variety of industry-sponsored educational programs provide practical knowledge for all members of the water well industry, whether they are new to the field or seasoned professionals.
Classroom vs. Interactive Learning
Among the most popular courses at Goulds Water Technology Factory School is its Residential Water System Product Application and Troubleshooting School. The three-day course covers all Goulds Water Technology water system pumps and accessories, including submersible pumps, shallow and deep well jet pumps, electrical accessories, fittings, tanks, and residential drives.
Attendees learn the features and benefits of each product and how to select and size the proper pump for a variety of applications. Beyond the classroom, attendees receive interactive training in the demonstration lab, including set-up, installation and troubleshooting. Often only a few days long, training seminars are a way for participants to learn about the latest advancements in residential water system applications through both classroom instruction and interactive demonstrations.
Most industry training begins with classroom instruction, covering product features and benefits, proper sizing and selection, and other fundamentals. While auditory or visual learners may be able to master skills by watching an instructor perform a task, tactile or kinesthetic learners perform better if they perform tasks themselves. Not surprisingly, the majority of water well professionals fall into the latter category, preferring to learn by doing, touching or being active.
Offering hands-on activities can benefit all types of learners by providing opportunities to observe and perform. Instructors at Goulds Water Technology Factory School reinforce information learned in the classroom through interactive activities in the lab.
Participants are broken into small groups of three to four people, which then are tasked with taking what they learned in the classroom and experiencing it in the lab. That includes assembling pumps, plumbing them with suction and discharge, applying power and running the pumps, getting familiar with pump operation, and using digital multimeters to take a variety of measurements like voltage and amperage.
One of the challenges training facilitators face is figuring out how to keep attendees’ attention on the learning experience. People can get distracted during even the most engaging lectures or presentations, resulting in missed opportunities to learn. Interactive training keeps participants engaged in what they are learning. Not only is it difficult for attendees to lose focus while performing a hands-on exercise, if participants know they are expected to replicate what they are being shown, they are more likely to be attentive.
Additionally, interactive training can increase information retention. When looking at retention rates of other presentation styles versus hands-on methods, research shows that learners retain only 5% of the material presented through lectures and 30% of the material taught by a demonstration. In contrast, hands-on participation can lead to as much as a 75% retention rate.
Another benefit of interactive training is the opportunity for immediate feedback, instruction and critique. Whether participants are assembling pumps, running pumps or taking measurements with multimeters, an interactive learning environment makes it easy for them to benefit from interaction with the instructor and peers and immediately implement feedback.
Industry professionals spend much of their time responding to and troubleshooting water well issues, from monitoring or servicing wells, to interpreting water analyses, to diagnosing equipment malfunctions. A prerequisite to troubleshooting residential water systems is the knowledge and understanding of pumps and controls. Knowing how pump equipment functions, what each component installed on the pump equipment is, what those components do, and how they interact are essential in any troubleshooting situation. Acquiring that knowledge begins in the classroom where participants gain a general understanding of basic pump fundamentals and hydraulic systems.
Hands-on training also exposes water well professionals to challenges and obstacles they may encounter in the field. Working through different scenarios in a safe training environment enables attendees to develop problem solving skills without risk. Incorporating interactive problem solving exercises also allows participants to ask for help from the instructor and collaborate with peers to further develop their troubleshooting skills.
Interactive tools such as digital multimeters and ohmmeters are essential to developing troubleshooting and diagnostic skills. Proper training on the features and functions of these field instruments is critical for detecting equipment malfunctions and failures.
Training With Technology
Technology plays an important role in today’s professional learning environments. From virtual reality simulations to touch screen interfaces, these interactive learning components offer an immersive and engaging learning experience for professionals going through training. Online demonstrations that simulate system design and installation are proving invaluable in helping trainees learn to properly navigate and program equipment like constant pressure controllers.
Classroom technology also promotes collaboration among attendees and the instructor. In addition to interactive projectors and whiteboards, wireless collaboration solutions make it easy for participants to connect and share content such as installation photos and other materials to a main screen in the room. All that is required is a smart phone or similar device. This type of interactive technology helps attendees actively engage in the training experience.
Power of Plants
Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of interactive learning for water well industry professionals is an actual tour of the manufacturing facility. Plant tours offer an opportunity to round out knowledge first learned in the classroom and then apply it in the lab.
Most courses at Goulds Water Technology Factory School include a tour of the company’s manufacturing facility in Auburn, N.Y., where attendees have the opportunity to see how products are built, tested and packaged. During plant tours, participants also are encouraged to talk to the factory workers and ask questions about the pumps and accessories they assemble. That interaction serves to further enhance what attendees already have learned in the classroom or the lab.
As the water well industry continues to evolve there is an ongoing need for continuing education for industry professionals to learn new practices or brush up on their existing skill set. Interactive training allows industry professionals the opportunity to master skills prior to working in real-world environments.