Ellwood National Forge Uses THORS Training to Foster Employees’ Growth

Abe Bigelow, Training Manager for Ellwood National Forge.

Laying the Foundations for a Successful Program

Abe Bigelow has an extensive background in machining and has also run welding and fabrication shops for employee growth in the past. Abe went back to school for welding and says, “I’m pretty comfortable in the welding and machining environments.” His knowledge of welding transfers over to a basic understanding of heat treating.

THORS is his first experience with an online learning platform for manufacturing and he has completed 30 courses. Abe specifically mentioned that he was aware of the tools discussed in the 7QC courses, and the courses were a good refresher. He also says that the forging and heat treat courses helped him in his ability to “speak the same language” with the various departmental leaders.

When Abe started with Ellwood National Forge the THORS program was, as he put it, “semi-launched”. He found that although some of his coworkers knew that it existed and was available, they did not necessarily understand what it was or what the benefit of the training was. Abe also says he was “surprised at the number of people who didn’t know it existed.”

Gaining Management Support

Abe knew that he needed to put together a very structured approach to “roll it out into a fresh grand opening.” “It took a little bit to get the ball rolling,” he says. He notes that one of his initial hurdles was getting the supervisors to meet with him to help determine a curriculum that made sense for what they do in each department.

Abe says, “I had to explain that I’m not trying to just steal your time. I’m giving you a better-trained employee that is going to need less of your time and do a better job.” He helped them to understand how THORS training would help reduce scrap and enable their employees to make better-informed decisions. He also pointed out that the training will enable them to start to transition some employees into supporting roles for the supervisors, which, in turn, will help them become more efficient in their jobs. “Once these points were made it helped get everyone on board a little smoother.”

Putting the Program in Motion

Working with the departmental managers and supervisors, Abe put together a curriculum that made sense, one for each department. The various curricula had courses that he strongly recommended for employee growth. There were other courses that he highlighted as relevant to their position but secondary in importance. In reviewing this with the employees he made sure to let them know that they could decide whether or not they wanted to take part in the program. He then stressed to them how it would help them in their career development if they decided to participate. Abe does note that he likes having the courses as an option for his employees because it lets those that have a strong desire to learn improve their skills, allowing them to excel and really shine and stand out to their supervisors.

Monitoring the progress

The THORS courses have been embraced and although it is not mandatory for an employee’s participation, the training is reviewed when employees are being considered for a promotion. It has become known among the Ellwood National Forge supervisors that if there is an employee with strong participation in THORS training this person may be a strong candidate to move up within the organization.

Ellwood National Forge does provide a training center and allows for time for their employees to take their THORS courses. They find that training is an imperative part of growing the talent that is within their organization. This focus on training and growing their talent is also important for employee morale as well. It is worth noting that there are several employees that have seen upward movement in their careers with Ellwood National Forge since starting their training with THORS.

THORS Program Support from Start to Finish

Abe commented that the ongoing support he’s received from the THORS team is a huge part of the program’s achievement. THORS provides course learning path suggestions, rollout assistance, and if desired, monthly success meetings. The monthly meetings are used to review the program’s effectiveness, provide deeper insights, and ensure the program is meeting the training needs and goals.

"I don't think that the program would be what it is without us linking up, monthly, or more in some cases, and working through and figuring out what's going to work best for my learners. It really does feel like THORS and Ellwood are a team. I’ve never felt like there was no one to help me with a question or an issue. If I need help, I know it’s a phone call away. This makes a big difference in my mind.”

Challenge Solved!

The manufacturing world is facing new challenges in our ever-changing world. It is becoming more and more important for companies to encourage employee growth in-house. When asked about the biggest challenges within the workforce and professional development, Abe noted two of his biggest struggles. The first struggle is how to properly structure on-the-job training so that people get the information that they need, as they need it. This needs to be done in an appropriate and structured manner so that everyone understands how something is done. The second struggle is teaching the “what” and “why” we do what we do, but that’s where THORS comes in!

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