The University Record, September 17, 1997

Academy helps Plant Operations staff stay on cutting edge

By Kerry Colligan

Training and human resource development often are neglected in modern organizations, according to J. A. Bardouille, program manager of the Plant Academy. Acknowledgement of that neglect and a desire to create a "true learning environment" led to the development of the Plant Academy, an education division of Plant Operations encompassing everything from skills and management training, to effective time management and personal development, to providing leadership for organizational change.

Planning for the Academy began four years ago, as the University was preparing for significant changes under the M-Quality initiative. At its core, the Academy stresses personal accountability, teaching the principles of total quality management from the inside out.

"I've heard every excuse there is to avoid coming to work," says Armando Lopez, personnel officer in the Office of the Plant Director. "What the Academy is trying to do is instill a sense of responsibility, an awareness that each employee contributes to the success of the division and to the mission of the University."

Recognition of the larger community in which Plant operates is central to the direction of the Academy. "We've got to stay on the cutting edge," Lopez says. "Our employees are working on buildings with computerized temperature control and air flow. Entire systems are monitored from one computer. Technicians are carrying laptop computers these days."

The need to stay on the cutting edge means training and re-training staff to be competitive. "Organizations have to recognize that continuous learning at all levels is a key competitive factor in determining success," Bardouille says. "Learning doesn't only take place in a classroom setting. We can learn from each other at all levels and in everything we do."

There is, according to Lopez, a constant need to demonstrate the value of the Academy to the division as a whole. Perhaps, he notes, it is outside competition and a constant eye on expenditures that breeds doubters of the economic sensibility of the program. This fall, the Academy will undertake an internal evaluation to determine not only whether employees value the lessons it teaches, but also whether the program is achieving one of its central goals, increased efficiency.

"We will show through research studies that ongoing development, training and education are directly tied to productivity," Bardouille says. "If we can't show this, we'll soon be out of business."

Don't count on that. Two-thirds of the approximately 1,150 employees in Plant have completed the pre-requisite seminar on the seven habits of highly effective people (based on the principles author Steven Covey outlines in his book by the same name), an impressive number given that the Academy officially opened its doors in January.

For more information, call 647-8007.