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As COVID restrictions ease, Ben Bartle-Ross looks at the future of learning for HVAC engineers

I’m writing this just prior to the easing of COVID restrictions in England on the 19th July – or ‘freedom day’ as some are allegedly calling it.

This has seen our Prime Minister calling for people to go back to the offices, and for theatres, sporting venues and even nightclubs to reopen.

I for one don’t believe we will see a mad rush back to offices and here at Mitsubishi Electric, we are adopting a more cautious approach and trying to balance the needs of the business with the safety and mental health of our staff.

It has been a strange and strained time for everyone over the past 15-16 months and I know many of my colleagues have missed the interaction, both business and social, of being with their friends and workmates.

I have also missed the face-to-face interaction with engineers over the circuit boards and Dip switches of one of our units.

So, are we about to announce the reopening of all of our training facilities in line with this ‘back to normal’?

Err, no. Not in the immediate future and there are a number of good reasons for this.

The classroom is dead, long live the workshop.

Ben Bartle Ross Ben Bartle-Ross Technical trainer

Amazing results

Firstly, over the past year, we have developed what we believe is the best, most interactive online training for air conditioning and heat pump engineers available anywhere in the UK.

And we are starting to get recognition for this with the training being shortlisted for two major industry awards.

Secondly, not only have the ‘blended learning’ courses allowed us to reach and train far more engineers than ever before, it’s saved our customers time and money by removing the need to travel and take a whole day away from the job.

80% of the learning is done in the customer’s own time through an online portal and this learning is followed by virtual workshops which are delivered in 2 hours.

This blended learning programme has reduced costs for our customers by 65%, saved significant ‘off-tools’ time for engineers and made the courses accessible at a time to suit individual requirements of the attendees.

It has also cut back drastically on the need to travel to our training centres which has led to a significant reduction in carbon emissions for our customers.

Better than ever

For us as a training provider it has increased delivery efficiency by over 800%, completely eradicated our backlog of people waiting for training and we’ve just broken through the 2,500 mark of engineers trained since we launched last July.

Before we launched the online courses, we had a waiting list which exceeded 1,500 people and our backlog for training was almost 12-months on the most popular courses.

Today, wait times are virtually non-existent, there is almost no limit on capacity, course costs and time have been reduced for both customers and the company – AND the carbon savings have been phenomenal.   

Even more benefits

Another benefit to me and my fellow trainers is that we have had more time to look at both existing and new courses so that we can add to our offering.

We’ve got courses we will launch later in the Autumn but the latest which went live this month, is a course aimed specifically at anyone wanting to know more about ventilation for the residential market, with our Lossnay Mechanical ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR) unit.

Of course we are also looking forward to the day when we can reopen our training facilities fully and invite engineers to come and get their ‘hands on’ the physical equipment.

However, what we won’t be doing is going back to a ‘classroom-type’ situation as any hands-on training will be just that – a hands-on workshop.

But that won’t be necessary for everyone and we believe our new model for training is the way forward as it makes learning on heat pumps and air conditioning more accessible than ever and has reached far more engineers than previously possible.

The classroom is dead, long live the workshop.

Ben Bartle-Ross is a technical trainer at Mitsubishi Electric