Make the most of your training and education

Learn from your peers' experiences and sign up for a user conference.

The drive to Des Moines was long, not only because it was a six-hour haul from the Chicago suburbs, but also because I was wondering how my youngest son would fare as a freshman at Drake University, and how I would fare as an empty nester.

Peter will do fine. The University is going that extra mile to ensure new students are prepared for the academic, personal and social changes they will face in their new homes. Peter's getting some training before classes start.

One of the best ways to learn is from experience. And learning from your peers' experiences is even more preferable.

That six-hour haul back to Chicago, however, gave me plenty of time to think. Thoughts of my son's training program prompted thoughts of my training needs and, dear readers, your training needs. Continual learning is critical to our jobs and our personal growth.

Budgets are very tight, I know. And training dollars are probably the first to get cut. However, many low-cost seminars are available that allow us to learn practical lessons from others in our industries. Many if not more low-cost or no-cost training options are also available, such as Webcasts and video conferences, or Web-based training programs.

Whatever the method, training makes us better, stronger and more able to meet the challenges we face on the job. "Challenges" is the nice word for the problems, frustrations and crises that fall in your lap, whether you're ready or not.

One of the best ways to learn is from experience. And learning from your peers' experiences is even more preferable. That's probably why my son had a peer mentor/academic consultant assigned to him as soon as he made his college choice. And, that's probably why some of the most valuable seminars are those that try to teach by example.

Fall appears to be the season for "user conferences." Usually coordinated by vendors, these seminars offer real-world examples of failure and success. Their extended application-story/case-study format offers real value when you can meet the folks who were involved in solving a problem and further pick their brains.

Video conferences and Webcast seminars provide valuable information and often allow real-time dialogue with the speakers. Many Web seminars are archived on a publication's or a company's Web site for future reference.

More suppliers and consulting firms are providing or planning to provide on-line training for clients and others. If you have problems in a certain area, check with your suppliers to see what type of information and training they offer on their site. You may be surprised at the body of knowledge available on the Web.

Don't forget us. You continue to tell us in research studies that trade magazines are one of the most valuable tools you have to further your workplace education. Whether you find information of value in these printed pages, or you search our Web site,, you will be learning from the collective experiences of your colleagues in manufacturing and plant management.

I hope my son makes the most of his learning experience, and I hope you make the most of yours.