800/246-4405 ext. 23
by Dale Malcolm
This year’s NGA Len Stolk Special Achievement Award was presented to Bruce Gates, a long-time trainer in the industry.
It seemed like an appropriate time to find out more about him and his view of how to train.
DM - How and when did you start in the glass business?
BG - My Dad and Mom, Harold and Pauline Gates, started in the glass business in 1947. I was born in 1953 and started watching and helping as a little boy. I have always liked cars, so auto glass was more fun for me.
DM - What are your current job responsibilities?
BG - As vice president of County Glass, dba Gates Brothers Glass, I train technicians, oversee the company safety program, evaluate new tools and products as well as build all the company’s computers and maintain the computer network among the stores. I consult for several auto glass tool companies, a couple of glass manufacturers, some large OEM vehicle manufacturers, and have assisted with adhesive testing for most of the major adhesive companies. I also fill in as necessary as an auto glass technician.
DM - How do you actually train your employees?
BG - We do after-hours training to help contain costs. This offers an opportunity to the employees to better themselves, making their jobs easier and becoming more productive. This is done on a voluntary basis, and no one is penalized for not attending. They do have to be present to receive some of the giveaways like tools or some of the door prizes that are offered. It is important to be frugal with the employee’s time so meetings are structured to deliver the training in a quick and efficient manner.
Experienced new hires are assigned to work with a senior employee for several weeks to be sure to perform to company practices and standards. Use of free vendor training is used to supplement in-house company training to conserve resources for training not available through vendors.
DM - In today’s difficult business environment, what is your biggest training challenge?
BG - To be able to provide quality training in a cost effective manner, in an environment of shrinking margins. Very often, time spent training is taken away from completing profitable work. This is where the voluntary training fits in. Employees have an opportunity to improve their self worth which can lead to greater personal rewards.
DM - Where do you look for training information and materials?
BG - Training materials come from a wide variety of resources; I use personal contacts with manufacturing people and trade magazines such as AGRR. I also get some material from vehicle manufacturers either from direct contacts or from dealers. I have been in this business all my life and still find I can learn something every day. The Internet has become a great source of information as well, because much material can be found on Web sites such as those of the vehicle manufacturers, glass manufacturers, and adhesive manufacturers. I keep my eyes open constantly as our industry changes with every new model release.
DM - Where do you see training changing in the next ten years?
BG - I see more computer-based training with more self study. The advantage to this is that if it is completed first, it would allow available time and resources to focus on more hands-on training. Also, continuing education available on the Internet. As states adopt licensing laws I can see an increase in the technician base becoming certified by state accepted training programs such as NGA, PAG, Prostars or any others that may be approved. I am hopeful that this will weed out the “slash and dash” installers who put vehicle occupants at risk, as well as tarnish the image of our industry.
DM - What changes do expect to see in auto glass in the next ten years?
BG - The complexity of the glass being installed will increase sharply in the short term, and continue to steadily become more complex over the next ten years. With the changes in vehicles comes an increase in the overall knowledge and competency of the average technician. New installers moving up will be exposed to far more information than their predecessors ever were.
Dale Malcolm is technical services supervisor with Dow Automotive/Essex ARG in Dayton, Ohio.
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