Current Issue
Published on December 22, 2003

Cutbacks in training a bad trend

There's no disputing the fact adequate training is a necessity, no matter what type of business you operate.

Whether you're managing people who are flipping burgers or changing tires, training should be your company's lifeblood if you are to prosper as a service-oriented business. That's why many of the most successful corporations have put in place the money, materials and personnel needed to keep their workers as up to date as possible on the ever-changing technologies of their workplaces.

Witness McDonald's Corp. and its worldwide management training facility in Oak Brook, Ill.-and 10 international training campuses-known as ``Hamburger University,'' which got its start in 1961 in the basement of a McDonald's restaurant.

Today the facility boasts 65,000 managers-graduates and a faculty of 30 resident professors. The company has watched the size of Hamburger U. classes grow from an average of about 10 participants to more than 200 per class.

The tire business has its counterparts modeled after Mickey D.'s. Big O Tires Inc.'s ``Big O University'' comes to mind.

We've touted the necessity of keeping dealership employees well trained many times. Recently we applauded American Car Care Centers Inc. for signing up its 1,100 member-dealer outlets to the Tire Industry Association, in part because of the numerous training options TIA offers.

So it's with trepidation that we note drops in enrollment for some companies that offer training. Bee Line Co., for instance, has decided to scale back by about half its wheel alignment and other training courses in 2004 due to dwindling enrollment. Ron Pontsler, a Bee Line customer service representative, said the cutbacks are an attempt to increase class sizes because many courses offered in 2003 had only one or two students. Why? Dealerships are concerned about costs, he explained.

Tire repair materials manufacturer Tech International Inc. also has experienced an enrollment drop for training courses. Bill Johnson, worldwide director of training, said Tech isn't cutting back courses in the coming year. But it was forced to cancel four classes in 2003 because more dealerships wanted on-site training.

It's certainly understandable that a business owner's fervor for training often diminishes after putting a pencil to the cost of ``losing'' an employee for several days on a ``training junket.'' Sure, training's expensive.

But sharpen that pencil again. Calculate the lost revenue when an ill-trained tech botches a job, forcing your dealership to eat the comeback cost. Worse yet, consider a business-breaking lawsuit that might have been avoided had adequate training been given to all employees.

Is on-site training-and perhaps its companion, Internet-based training-the wave of the future? Maybe. But there should still be a place for the comprehensive training that firms like Bee Line and Tech offer. For its part, TIA will again conduct a 10-city hands-on truck tire training tour.

We urge dealers to support whatever it takes to make training a reality for all employees. The future of your business depends on it, so don't take training lightly.

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