Question 5: Training: in-house or third-party? Why?
Paul: Customer service training should be done in house, because it is an element that must start at the management level and be the focus of every team member. And this training should be very specific to your site, your procedures and your preferences. Safety and technical training should be performed by a third party. All too often we see companies training internally to old or even inaccurate standards. A third party brings in a fresh set of eyes. But be sure to let your third party trainer know about what equipment you use on your course, and ask them if they have experience with it.
Micah: I think a combination of both is essential. In-house training is how new guides are hired and mentored, as well as how existing guides receive ongoing refresher training and practice. Third-party training and testing provides input and verification from an outside perspective. A park that does some combination of both shows their commitment to ensuring the guides they employ have a high level of qualifications.
Jim: In my opinion, the well-rounded organization establishes a solid foundation of practices with an experienced and qualified trainer (typically third-party), then refines these skills through regular in-house practice.
Every owner should work with the designer/builder and establish a training plan. In addition to what manufacturers, insurance companies, regulators, and standards may or may not require of you, take a close look at risk. The majority of incidents and near misses stem from operational errors, so evaluate your training program and seek help where you need it to fill in the gaps and make it better.
And the truth is, third party trainings and inspections also take you off the island and put you on the peninsula. You’re now connected to the rest of the industry.
Ryan: At the aerial park that we operate, we had a third party do the technical staff training at the beginning of the season. We also have professional trainers/testers come in to oversee and evaluate the aerial park staff many times throughout the season. This helps us ensure that it is not just one set of eyes on the staff and their skill set, there are many people who are not a part of that park looking at the staff.
I do believe that some courses can do great in-house staff training, but I strongly believe that the staff be tested/evaluated by an independent third party on an annual basis. The most common reason I hear that courses do not have a third party evaluate staff is the cost. I do not believe that staff training/testing is an area that operations should try to save money. That is the best money that an operation can spend throughout the year.
It is common in many other areas of education and operations to have third-party verification of skills and knowledge. I do not think the aerial course industry is any different.
Tim: Third party, because it keeps you honest and allows the presentation of the highest standards.