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Training Becomes Virtual
Social distancing requirements ended in-person training for the foreseeable future. All of the manufacturers have moved to online or webinar-based training that is, in some cases, quite robust.
For example, Bradford White has tried to replicate the look and feel of its hands-on training experiences to the web via live training broadcasts from its training center in Middleville, Michigan, said Carl Pinto Jr., senior director, marketing communications, Bradford White Corp. Nearly 4,000 participants have joined the sessions as of mid-June.
“We have also increased the accessibility of our troubleshooting and installation tip information for all contractors that might work on our products, not just regular Bradford White customers registered in our For The Pro program, Pinto explained. “Our Laars Pros have also been able to avail themselves of on-line training opportunities through the Laars Academy Live, which consists of broadcasts from our Laars Heating Systems’ training facility in Rochester, New Hampshire. These broadcasts are a mix of both live and pre-recorded segments.”
Navien has switched all of its technical training to webinars, said National Training Manager David Hoskyn.
“We have done many sales, technical product and system training webinars for consulting engineers, contractors, wholesalers and reps,” Hoskyn said. “The response was very positive, and we plan on continuing reaching out to customers remotely until the pandemic is under control and the travel restrictions are lifted. Not only are we doing webinars on a national level, our regional trainers are conducting more tailored online trainings for their territories. Our customers can view Navien webinars live and, since they are recorded, they can view all these webinars later at a time that is more convenient for them.”
Weil-McLain has launched an ongoing webinars series, “Weil-McLain Wednesdays,” at www.weil-mclain.com/webinars, which are webinars focused on residential and commercial training. The company has worked closely with its reps and distributors to provide the technical skills needed to install and maintain equipment, as well as application knowledge to ensure correct product selection. Attendance and engagement throughout the webinar series have remained strong, the company said, although it has noticed that attendance is starting to decline as contractors get back to work. The firm is evaluating ways to make this content available on-demand.
Lochinvar Commercial Product Manager Robert Wiseman pointed out that the company’s online training platform, Lochinvar U, offers training classes and videos, including real-time simulators and diagnostic tools. The boiler manufacturer’s training teams have established regular live training sessions that run Tuesdays and Thursdays every other week, and each show ends with a live Q&A with its technical experts. Recording of the training sessions, other training videos and online certifications are also available on the www.LochinvarU.com website.
Noritz has pivoted to virtual trainings and has started to do weekly trainings in response to the demand, said Andrew Tran, marketing manager at Noritz America.
“This has also spurred us to redo our training website,” he added, “in response to an influx of visitors to our website at training.noritz.com.”
Meanwhile, Traingle Tube has began livestreaming a series of courses every Wednesday. Classes will support various products and applications, including the Prestige, Smart 316, and the Instinct. An extensive How-to and Troubleshooting video library is also available on the Triangle Tube training website, www.triangletube.com/support/contractor-training.
Last April as mandatory lockdowns became common, U.S. Boiler Co. put together an online training program called U.S. Boiler University at www.usboiler.net/u-s-boiler-university.html designed to educate professional home heating contractors on a wide variety of pertinent topics.
The initial offerings were meant to be short, targeted educational sessions, designed to help save critical time on installation and service, an absolute necessity going forward with safety concerns for installers and their customers worried about social distancing.
By breaking the training material into 10- to 15-minute online modules, U.S.B-U provides the content in a digestible, convenient format. The first modules, such as “Installing High Efficiency, Condensing Boilers released last April, were taught by Ron Beck, U.S. Boiler training manager with more than 20 years of teaching and contacting experience.
All of Beck’s course work has also been archived for viewing any time at the site.
Since then, the company has moved further into educating contractors by launching a series of webinars.
“What we initially started with were basic, narrated Power Point presentations that we quickly put together on popular topics for anyone involved in the hydronics trades,” said Mike Hook, marketing communications manager for U.S. Boiler. “But we knew what we needed most of all was the interactive side of providing as true an educational experience as we could outside of a classroom.”
By May, U.S. Boiler presented its first webinar on near boiler piping.
“We knew that topic would have a broad reach,” Hook added, “but we were still really surprised that we had close to 300 people registered.”
The webinars range in length form an hour-plus to a half-hour with time built in for questions.
“It’s easy to ask questions,” Hook said. “The platform we use allows for a virtual ‘hand raise,’ but we can also field questions by text. To have what is esentially one-to-one time with our installers is very valuable.”
Since then, the company has held at press time seven webinars, which like Beck’s classes, are also archived on the U.S. Boiler University website.
“It will absolutely continue,” Hook said of the webinar program. “You’re never going to completely replace the value of having people come into our facility, take a tour, look over the engineering center, talk to a guy on the line to understand how our products are made and then have a traditional classroom informational session. But the effectiveness of broadcasting something that’s important to our customers and engage them all while not having to be concerned about traveling is hard to beat.”
Hook added that the company has also done custom virtual training for at least one major wholesaler with more distributors in the works. And the company’s famed training van is also beginning to travel again, too.
We talked with Hook for one of our first Off the Cuff interviews, which described how manufactuers were coping with COVID-19, and he reminded us that one of the major factors the company had for the U.S. Boiler University program was to prepare contractors for a “perfect storm” of installations and service calls this heating season compared to last year’s relatively mild heating season.
“We are seeing that happen,” Hook added. “Coupled with concerns from the pandemic, we think it is more important than ever for installers to know what they need to do so that when they go to a home or business they do the work quickly, keep everyone safe and still provide a needed service.”