Snapshots: 60 Seconds with Mike Grundmann, VEDP

Mike Grundmann, Senior Vice President, Talent Solutions, Virginia Economic Development Partnership, discusses workforce development, recruitment and training, and the impact of COVID-19.

Business Facilities: How does the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program accelerate facility start-ups and expansions by shortening the new-hire learning curve?

Mike GrundmannMike Grundmann: A picture is worth a thousand words, so we create training materials that are rich in visualizations. They feature 3D illustrations, animations and lots of broadcast-quality video. Our expert instructional designers weave these media into a training system purpose-built to accelerate learning.

The structure is as important as the visual media. Companies that rely too heavily on peer-to-peer on-the-job training face much longer employee learning curves, and that throttles back the overall facility start-up time. Compare it to learning to play the guitar. You’ll eventually learn on your own with some tips from others, but you’ll learn a heck of a lot faster with well-structured lessons; particularly if they include animations of all the proper fret finger placements.

We’re able to do this by initiating each project with an analysis that gives us a complete understanding of everything from the client’s business model, job skill requirements and culture to the process flow, equipment functions, quality systems and performance metrics. Recognizing that today’s companies are not starting from scratch when it comes to training and talent acquisition, our process puts a special focus on learning each client’s best practices and building on them.

BF: The Virginia Talent Accelerator Program offers highly customized job-specific training services using methodologies and media determined to be most effective for accelerated learning. Can you give us an example of how the program chooses the right method?

MG: We strive to make the training as hands-on as possible without affecting production. Looking for ways to make this happen is always the first thing we do after a task analysis. Sometimes it’s relatively straightforward. For example, one of our clients assembles step vans, mostly with rivets. It’s relatively easy to take that offline by buying a set of rivet guns, fabricating training stations with pre-drilled aluminum sheets and teaching trainees how to rivet, giving them plenty of practice time to hone their technique.

Tasks performed on more automated processes are trickier to take offline because the equipment is so big, expensive and specialized. In cases like that, we have to get creative. Most of the tasks involve navigating control panels, but few companies want new hires practicing these tasks on the actual line because each minute of downtime can be worth thousands of dollars in lost production. Likewise, new hires are understandably reluctant to engage with the new control panels because they’re afraid of pushing the wrong button and breaking something. What we do in cases like that is build a simulation of the control panel so new hires can learn offline, make mistakes there, and practice until they’re 100 percent confident in their ability to work the controls.

BF: What criteria does the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program use to identify high-potential candidates in recruitment efforts?

MG: Selection criteria are set by our client companies. It’s different for every company and for every job within the company. Our clients know their candidate profiles best. We simply listen. Our talent acquisition service is all about finding the best ways to reach those candidates and getting them to take action once we do.

BF: Will the economic disruption caused by the pandemic increase the need for workforce training and talent attraction/retention programs during the recovery?

MG: COVID-19 has spurred a major surge in reshoring. This is going to create thousands of new manufacturing jobs, and every person who fills one will need to be trained. All states will be competing for these jobs. Virginia offers companies a choice between a full-service incentive like the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program, or the self-service grant option of the Virginia Jobs Investment Program (VJIP). We have assembled a top team of instructional design and visualization talent, and we’re doing some new things in the talent acquisition space, So I feel good about our chances of landing a lot those reshoring jobs here in Virginia. I feel even better about the difference we can make in the lives of Virginians who lost their jobs as a result of this pandemic.

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