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Diploma Mill With A Difference

Summary::A Crestbrook Forest Industries program that combines on-site industrial training with high school completion courses is well-accepted by employees.

By Robert Forrest
Copyright 1996. Contact publisher for permission to reprint.

"Lifelong learning" is a way of life for workers at Crestbrook Forest Industries Ltd. of Cranbrook, BC. With technology causing rapid change in the workplace and the world, Crestbrook introduced an innovative employee-educa-tion program last year. "We are developing a training or learning environment within Crestbrook," says Jim Kennedy, manager of Human Resources at Crestbrook.

A major new educational upgrade pro-gram called the Work Site Grad Program allows employees to complete their Grade 12. To house the program, the company con-verted a warehouse at its Cranbrook sawmill into a new 900-square-foot training centre.

"The initial focus was educational upgrad-ing but, when we saw what was available, we put a package together that provides high school completion for people who didn't have it," says Kennedy. "It is offered in a self-paced, non-threatening fashion. For people who have been out of school for a long time, going back is pretty uncomfortable."

According to Kennedy, Crestbrook 's training coordinator, Lucy Rachynski, deserves much of the credit for development of the program. "Lucy put together a needs assessment for workers at our Cranbrook sawmill. From there, she developed the idea of an educational upgrading program with a primary focus on high-school completion," he says.

"We did a needs assessment with our hourly workers at the plant," Rachynski continues. "Usually, companies concentrate on supervisory or management training. After the needs assessment, we found a significant number of employees were interested in fin-ishing their Grade 12."

Crestbrook management believes that better educated employees will more easily master the new skills needed in the industry. They have made a commitment to offering basic skills as a first program which will last about two years.

After that, the training centre will be used for other training programs. Recognizing that the centre's users would be busy, working adults, Rachynski knew setting up the program was critical. She had seen adult students respond positively to computer-based learning at the provincial Open Learning Agency (OLA) adult-education program in Prince George, BC.

Crestbrook decided to use computer-based training and asked the two school districts and the community college in the Kootenay region of BC for program proposals. "We wanted to make the Grade 12 as relevant and interesting as possible," says Rachynski. "Students can take courses related to their jobs.

They can still take the academic route if they wish, but they have an option to go a more work-oriented route for credit." "The Kimberley School District came up with a computer-based program which was extremely user friendly," says Kennedy.

"They gave high-school credit for this program and some traditional industry-training programs." "They showed us a very impre ssive program called Plato," says Rachynski. "The math capability goes up to first-year university." Plato allows students to study individually with instructor assistance when needed. Using self-paced computer study, they can work on traditional subjects like math and English, on technical programs like hydraulics, or on computer-oriented courses like Word Perfect, a word-processing pro-gram, and Lotus 123, a spreadsheet program.

Also included for credit are the self-paced OLA Workplace Leadership materials, the regular Interior Lumber Manufacturers ' Association lumber-grading classes, and the Work Place Safety Program. Students can take high-school completion or an upgrade in math or some other subject. East Kootenay Community College (EKCC) made some of its courses available, as well.

The training centre is equipped with state-of-the-art computers, according to Rachynski. Ten are networked while two are stand-alone. Six have CD-ROM drives. The training centre is open during the day and on some evenings to meet students' needs. "The instructors are very good at adjusting to students' needs," says Rachynski.

Through a financial arrangement with the Kimberley School District, instructor costs are covered by the Ministry of Education. Other program supporters are the school district, the EKCC and the Ministry of Skills, Training and Labour of BC. With the program open to all Crestbrook employees and their spouses, one-third of the participants in the high-school upgrade pro-gram are spouses, according to Rachynski "Last year, the centre was open 36 days between July 17 to September 8," says Rachynski.

"There were 251 users during that time. Some of those were the same peo-ple coming back several times." "Not all users may be working on course material," Rachynski cautions. "The same people may use the facilities for more than one thing: 107 people came in for the Plato system, primarily English and math; 135 we re for the computer-program credit toward Grade 12, including Word Perfect and Lotus 123; and 20 were for other reasons, such as orientation or meetings."

About half of the 61 people registered at the centre in early fall 1995 were from Cranbrook, the other half from Crestbrook's other two sawmill sites. Some people drive close to an hour each way to get to the facility. Rachynski indicates that they are already looking at expansion possibilities.

"People are learning in an environment that is business-like and adult-oriented. It makes them feel proud to be there. You take away the stigma to getting Grade 12," says Rachynski. "People are very positive. They are spreading the word and it has caught on very well. A third of the program is spouses. People can even bring their children with them to the facility if they have to. "We have had calls from other provinces about what we are doing. We will be helping some other companies make the move," Rachynski says with certainty.

April 1996 articles - Forest Expo Show Guide

  • New Deere Buncher
    Eastern and western contractors assess the new 653E.
  • Riverside Forest Products
    A $17 million upgrade produces a 12-percent recovery gain
  • OSB Fast Track
    Ainsworth opens its second OSB plant in as many years.
  • Caribou-Friendly Harvesting
    A look at a working study in BC's Chilcotin region.
  • Eye on the Orient
    With a confusing Timber West/Fletcher Challenge ownership behind it, the Elk Falls lumber mill invests $16 million to retool for Asian markets.
  • Unmasking the Eco-Myths
    Ex-Greenpeace activist Patrick works these days to counter the forestry myths and misinformation put forth by radical environmentalists. Most don't have a clue what they are talking about, says Moore.
  • Ancient Enterprise Still Thriving
    The oak forests and processing industry of France predate the Romans. LSJ's peripatetic editor Reg Barclay takes us inside a highly efficient plant in Burgundy, France.
  • Diploma Mill with a Difference
    A Crestbrook Forest Industries program that combines on-site industrial training with high school completion courses is well-accepted by employees.
  • Marketplace: Supplier NewsLine
    Equipment information including the Implemax Equipment skid steer grapple, the Dynaweld detachable trailer model, the Imac PowerSwivel, the Morbark Model 1300 Tub Grinder, and more.
    This month: Kiln controls including Drystar Computer Kiln Controller, Winkiln Control System, Custom Dry Kiln PLC and more.
  • New Era in Bush Communications
    Forest companies working in remote locations will welcome TMI Communications' new mobile satellite communications network.

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