Now more than ever: Training for road maintenance workers

Kathleen Schaefer
Instructor, Circuit Training and Assistance Program
Minnesota Department of Transportation
St. Paul, Minnesota

Money's tight, what do we cut? During these times of budget shortfalls, while the ax is slashing programs and services threatening layoffs, it is wise to slow down and focus on the big picture. We need to determine the difference between where we really will save money and where it will simply appear that money is being saved.

Training programs are often one of the first to fall under the ax. Training that can transform an average employee into a more skilled, knowledgeable and more productive, above-average employee is tossed out. Why? Because on the surface training costs money. Workers are in training so they aren't producing, and training that's contracted does come with a price tag. But the real truth is that training saves money. The time away from the job and the actual dollars paid for training pale in comparison to the benefits achieved through training. If the goal is to save money, it is vital during these times for workers to be their most efficient, and training helps to achieve that. Maintenance workers want and need to know the best maintenance practices for the jobs they perform.

Low employee morale is another direct product of working in such an adverse environment. For this, I also believe training is the answer. Showing employees that they are valuable and that the agency is willing to invest in their skills and wants them to succeed helps boost morale. Higher employee morale equals greater productivity, which equals money saved.

Great benefits are also derived from the dialogue that occurs during training with the exchange of ideas, both between coworkers and between agencies. This sharing of ideas spurs the great creativity that so many of our maintenance workers possess, resulting in more efficient methods or tools to perform the job.

This is the time workers must be their most knowledgeable, efficient and productive. There are many training opportunities available to road maintenance workers that agencies would be wise to take advantage of. Whether from coworker-trainers, supervisors, or contracted through government programs such as the Circuit Training and Assistance Program (CTAP), training will help to achieve the goals of boosting morale, sharing ideas and, ultimately, saving money.

Kathleen Schaefer can be reached at (651) 282-2160 or at Kathleen.Schaefer@dot.state.mn.us.