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Looking upon training as workforce maintenance, delegates encourage
The Eternal Debate Continues. Why is there such a lack of training among Canadian pulp and paper mills? Why is it looked upon as a cost, not an investment? Why doesn't the industry see the folly of its ways? Speakers (and delegates) tried to give some answers at the Open session on Professional Development held Tuesday afternoon. The three papers also opened the doors to a possibly more enlightened future as they took a look at what two mills are doing.
The first paper, a joint presentation by Richard Tremblay, St-Laurent paperboard, and Ron LaBrie, HUMENG International, took a look at operator training and how it will look in the 21st century, at least at St-Laurent's LaTuque, QC, mill.  The mill went through a major modernization in the mid-1990s on its two paper machines, finishing room and secondary treatment.  It also downsized its workforce to 650 people from 1150 and decided to work towards ISO 9002 accreditation.  The mill realized it had to change its approach to training if it was to be successful in all these endeavors.

The mill hired HUMENG for the training of in-house trainers, production of training modules, production of skill profiles for all operations and maintenance programs and the development of a training management software that helps document and follow up on training needs.

Tremblay noted that trainers must be credible, knowledgeable, involved, and self-starters and must be able to give coaching and a sense of empowerment to employees. Tremblay added that in developing training modules, it is important to know the profile of each job before the trainers are chosen. They must keep abreast of changes in each job as technology changes because training must represent reality on the floor. Teamwork is also a key. Before any training can be done, trainers must know if the information to be given is correct. The only way to do this is to check with all involved. He also advised to use outside technical assistance, as it is impossible to do it all in-house.

Tremblay described the training process as a series of steps, such as from refresher through job profile through missing skills.

One of the keys tools used was the Transliaisons software program developed by HUMENG which identifies training needs. Produces budgets, tracks training cost per employee, tracks skills transfer on the floor and plans for succession.

Tremblay noted that a successful training program fosters employee "ownership" of the job and pride in a job well done. He said that the program accounted for a portion of the 33% increase in productivity the mill has enjoyed in the past 18 months.

St-Laurent Paperboard's Tremblay summed it up well. He said that with improvements in technology, if all goes well a person can sit in front of a computer for eight hours and appear to do little while the mill hums along. However, when an upset occurs, that's when competence and training become important. When thing go awry, that's when a mill wants, and needs, employees to know what to do.