Last year, 4028 trainees walked through the shiny, new doors of Viega’s Educational Facility in Nashua, New Hampshire. This year has already surpassed this number, in part thanks to its recent addition — an Interactive Learning Center with improved hands-on training.
We spent two days getting familiar with the technology and people behind the scenes. Jason McKinnon, director of technical services, has seen the Nashua facility through its 10 years in the making.
“The evolution has been invigorating to watch up close. Everything is new. Even the carpet is new,” McKinnon said.
The learning center sports 16 interactive classrooms, and an Interactive Learning Center with 16 creative interpretations of Viega solutions. Every display tells a story and is filled with moving parts that give the user an intimate experience with the technology. Users can turn on sinks and watch the water flow through an entire network on a screen. The radiant technology piece allows users to detect their body temperature. Many of the screens are touchable and provide installation information or how to switch out a product. Menus allow customization. There are also cameras that allow people in the Interactive Learning Center to take part in the training and modules happening inside the classroom.
The lower level of the Viega Educational Facility provides enhanced hands-on training, especially for commercial applications. Professionals can install Viega products in a real boiler room setting. During the first day of the event, we even got to witness a black pipe cutting demonstration with a new product coming to market in 2018; the MegaPress XL will make pressing iron pipe available for sizes 2-1/2", 3" & 4".
Overall, the Interactive Learning Center reinforces the classroom learning component while introducing cutting-edge technology in a museum-like setting and revamping an aging industry.
“I am extremely satisfied; the end result is more than we could have expected. The integration of the cutting-edge technology into our functioning displays is better than we originally thought could be achieved. Viega has always been a leader in technology and training, and this just continues us on that path providing one more opportunity for customers to learn products and systems in a new and exciting way, ” McKinnon said.
During our tour, Viega also shared the breakdown of its expanded training. It’s hard to believe that at one point in time, 90 percent of Viega’s training focused solely on radiant. Now it offers courses in hydronics, plumbing, fire protection and piping solutions. The radiant heating and cooling section includes manual design, design and layout software, controls, piping and ASSE Series segments. The plumbing courses cover PEX as well as pathogen risk and reduction. Viega has been able to provide more practical usage for its training, helping plumbers, for example, find multi-purpose approaches to using Viega products.
Classrooms are instructor-led, focused on group activities and interactive exercises. We took part in the classroom experience on piping solutions, led by Senior Technical Trainer Troy Locke. The room was packed to the brim with tradespeople of all ages and skill levels. Locke lectured on MegaPress gas fittings and how installers can comply with codes and standards. He engaged the group by asking specific questions and tossing out t-shirts to whoever could answer first.
Viega also spent some time during the media portion discussing its current project in the works – a 20,000-square foot training facility in Broomfield, Colorado, which will include three classrooms, one being a computer lab with stadium seating. All training will be completed on laptops to allow for more space.
With the facility still in the works, students who are currently undergoing vocational training are learning at the Red Rocks Community College. The college has allowed them to use houses that are in different stages of completion. Students use Viega products, which they get to keep for continued training. This process gives students a real feel for the jobsite.
Last but not least, we learned Viega is currently working on beta versions of online training, which is aimed to bring the classroom to contractors, wholesalers and owners.