Using an LMS as a Tool in your Construction Training Belt

A Google search for Learning Management Systems (LMS) best practices can best be described as a vendor list of sales pitches describing technology tools that will revolutionize any training program. Use ‘our’ system and “…build your workforce’s skills, strengthen your core competencies and gain new ones…”  Sounds good.  Where do we sign up?  Who are the top systems and vendors?

For those leading training initiatives in the Construction Industry, there are many compelling reasons to adopt and utilize an LMS.  Most large construction companies have projects in many states, with a corporate office hundreds of miles away.  The idea that training can be offered via t


he internet, watching a video, reading a document and taking a test, provides the scalability necessary to reach all employees.  In addition, the cost of pulling necessary craft and their leadership off of a job for training is rarely built into a bid that wins the contract, although training and well trained craft/staff is often required by clients.  Meeting OSHA and Department of Labor compliance expectations can easily be completed and documented in an LMS system.

However, many construction companies struggle with the reality and costs of choosing and implementing a Learning Management System.  Often purchased to meet a singular need, an LMS can be likened to buying a smart phone and using it to make nothing but phone calls.  The capabilities are endless but many are often never utilized.  And if an LMS is purchased to just avoid providing training that pulls needed site staff off a job to train, the problems that arise as a result are numerous and often without solutions.

What then should be considered in choosing and implementing an LMS that makes sense to support the varied needs of a construction company and the needs of the industry?

  1. An LMS is a tool in the construction training plan, not ‘the plan’. Although a good LMS can provide several options in training design, storage and delivery, it is only ‘one tool’ in the training tool belt. Abandoning live training, one-on-one training, workshops, mentorships, site craft group training and other training strategies that meet the needs of all learners only replaces the challenges of funding these initiatives with what becomes the ‘limited’ capabilities of a comprehensive LMS.
  2. Understand the needs of the organization before looking for/choosing an LMS. Learning Management vendors impress us with all the ‘bells and whistles’ that their tools can provide, with promises to meet the needs of our specific companies.  Before looking at any tool, including an LMS, identify the training objectives, gaps, current and future delivery options and the budget available for training. Create questions for the vendor on how an LMS will support the specific needs identified.
  3. Realize that an LMS implementation is a marathon not a sprint AND plan for it! The best implementations require socializing new ideas, soft and hard launches for the multiple training initiatives, pilots under review and room to change directions when necessary. Building training plans in terms of immediate initiatives (year 1) and future initiatives (year 3 and 5) prevent us from doing too much at once and not doing it well.  All organizations have people who will easily accept change and adopt new ideas, people that will comply because they believe in the company and their work, and those that will most likely never do what is asked of them.  Planning for and addressing each of those groups ensures a smooth and productive implementation, especially for an industry that prides itself in doing things the way they have always been done…because it has worked before.
  4. Identify the learning audiences, their available tools and interest/abilities to utilize an LMS. The construction industry employs a variety of people and sends them to sites that can be remote and with limited access to wi-fi. Craft laborers, apprentices and journeymen are rarely provided laptops needed for training and attempt doing hours of LMS work on smart phones and ill-equipped pads.  Many times course materials are only offered in English when many of our site employees are non-English speakers, with more of them unable to read materials created in English.  For those of them that have access to proper hardware and internet, the school-based training design of an LMS is often not how construction workers learn best.  The very fact that ironworkers and pipefitters become tradesmen is because they prefer to work and learn through experience and not out of a book.  When training teams and organizations understand this, they can choose, create and implement LMS designs that meet these needs and provide support when needed.

LPR has successfully utilized an LMS for a number of years to provide content to our apprentices as they learn the trades in both our steel and industrial divisions.  Recently we added new members to our training team which required us to step back and review how we utilize our tool for its current purpose and how we might move beyond what we do today.  In addition to committing to a full time administrator of the LMS, we are currently looking at growth in one, three and five year plans.  We also brought in a training consultant from our vendor who provided a ‘level-set’ for the team on the back-end design, how we are currently using the tool from the vendor’s perspective and what we can do in the future to engage our ‘site to corporate’ employees in both training and the LMS.  This has been a great experience, allowing us as a training community to better utilize a tool we have committed to using with a workforce we are committed to serving.

I have often said that recruiting, interviewing and hiring employees is much like dating a few times and getting married. This is often necessary due to the pressures of staffing our jobs, meeting project start dates and contract requirements, and pressures to not lose great candidates to competitors.  Purchasing an LMS can also be like ‘dating’, but without time pressures to make a decision.  Talking to several vendors, companies that use those vendors and reviewing the LMS capabilities that meet the very specific needs of construction workers will ultimately result in a good relationship and a strong LMS for your organization.

What I Learned During our VPP Audit

What I Learned During our VPP Audit

The word ‘audit’ sparks fear or at least gets our attention.  The very definition, “an official inspection of an individual’s or organization’s accounts, typically by an independent body” causes us to reflect on our practices, review our belief systems and evaluate our commitment to a particular value or idea. An audit forces an organization to take a deep dive into what they are doing, measuring it against criteria and ideals developed by the auditing organization.

LPR Construction has boasted the VPP designation for the last eighteen years, the longest any company has held the title in its division.  Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) is an OSHA initiative that encourages private industry and federal agencies to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses through hazard prevention and control, worksite analysis, training; and cooperation between management and workers.

Organizations that are recognized as VPP are audited on the following four elements:

  • Management Leadership, and Employee Involvement.
  • Worksite Analysis.
  • Hazard Prevention and Control.
  • Safety & Health Training.

Statistical evidence for VPP’s success is impressive. The average VPP worksite has a Days Away Restricted or Transferred (DART) case rate of 52% below the average for its industry(1). These sites often do not start with exceptionally low rates. Reductions in injuries and illnesses begin when the site commits to the VPP approach to safety and health management and the challenging VPP application process. Participating in VPP benefits employers as we know fewer injuries and illnesses mean greater profits as workers’ compensation premiums and other costs plummet. Entire industries benefit as VPP sites evolve into models of excellence and influence practices industry-wide.

The VPP logo hangs in the offices of LPR and is displayed on the outside of mobile trailers used for training. Even with its long VPP tenure, practices that have been implemented and credited to participating with VPP can be easily identified and articulated.  The programs developed are part of the culture and LPR’s first core value ‘Commited to Safety’ further demonstrates LPR’s commitment to ensuring everyone goes home in the same shape they showed up to work in.

I learned of the VPP audit several weeks ago.  As Director of People Development, our training team already collaborates closely with Safety Leadership.  However, preparing for the VPP audit caused us to not only collaborate but evaluate our current practices. Meeting in preparation for the audit, LPR’s People Services Team (Recruiting, HR, Training and Safety directed by LPR’s CPO (Chief People Officer), spent valuable time talking about our safety training, the quality of our safety personnel, how we are currently impactful on site safety culture and the process facilitated a deep discussion on who is ultimately responsible for safety at LPR.  Agreeing that we are all responsible is why LPR integrates safety into all areas of the organization.  It is not only part of our culture, it represents an element our core.  We talk it, we walk it and we expect it.

What did I learn during our VPP audit?

  1. The depth of LPR’s commitment to being a safe organization, beginning with the CEO and President, the executive management team and reaching all the way to the foremen and craft employees.
  2. The depth of pride we have in our safety culture, the VPP designation and the measurable results of being a safe organization.
  3. Safety goes way beyond making sure that we avoid falls and recognize hazards before they happen. Although physical safety is paramount, there is also a strong focus on providing a safe emotional environment for our employees. Exceptional health benefits that we can count on, short and long term disability, a strong and highly utilized Employee Assistance Program and a commitment to send our site based employees home to their families for extended weekends are integral components of our program.
  4. We all know and can talk safety. Preparation for the audit was easy and LPR employee were candid and able to talk to our safety practices.
  5. The VPP Audit Team wants us to be successful. Although challenging and communicating high expectations, they are here to review our best practices and provide valuable feedback on where we are strong and where we need to think about further development.
  6. The auditing process was a learning activity. During the presentations and individual interviews, the rich discussion allowed us to reflect on where our practices were exceptionally strong and where we can improve.
  7. A commitment and vision for safety at the corporate level means nothing if practices aren’t applied and valued at the site level. Although we know that intuitively, the audit required us to evaluate how we message and communicate our practices and expectations.
  8. An even clearer understanding of my role as part of our commitment to safety. Developing our employees as skilled craft workers, ensuring they are engaged in their work and LPR as a company, and focusing on developing leaders across the organization is fundamental to a great safety culture.

I encourage any OSHA affiliated company or organization to engage in the application process for VPP.  The benefits of partnering with VPP in fully implementing best practices and being accountable for them have been numerous for LPR, including being able to display the VPP logo, establishing us as a safety leader to our current and potential customers.  There is nothing more important than safety, and unfortunately often we don’t realize that until we have an accident or fatality.  I am going to promote that all accidents are avoidable, and I feel fully equipped and supported to support that at LPR.




An Innovative Approach to Craft Training

LPR’s Craft Training Mentors 7/2017

Each dollar invested in craft training can yield $1.30 to $3.00 in benefits through increased productivity and reductions in turnover, absenteeism and rework.”

This quote from an article in The Cornerstone: A Construction Publication for Workforce Development Professionals challenges all of us as we work to create training, and provide training opportunities, for our Craft Workforce.  It’s not only a money issue.  Well trained and tooled craft employees work more safely, yield a better quality product, and projects with a well-trained craft workforce require less rework.

 LPR has always been known for quality craft training.  Utilizing a well-equipped training room, a state of the art welding shop, a training tower and a mobile training facility, craft employees have learned how to properly tie off, read prints, read iron and use craft tools safety.  Craft employees traditionally would begin their employment with two weeks at the Loveland corporate office, heading to a Colorado jobsite to begin a career as an ironworker.

But as LPR has grown beyond the Colorado borders, with steel projects for organizations such as the Atlanta Braves and large industrial ACC projects also located on the east coast, providing training at the corporate office for all craft employees quickly became no longer scalable.  Projects began hiring locally, and the time and cost to send new craft hires to Colorado for training impacted already tight project schedules.  In addition, although LPR trainers conducted a comprehensive craft training program, supported by the NCCER curriculum, there continued to be ‘lost training opportunities’ where learning really happens – at the project site.

In response to the needs of both our apprentices and journeymen, the LPR Craft Training team is taking a more innovative approach to training craft employees and implementing a Mentor Training Model. All craft employees will continue to access the NCCER curriculum either in book form or as an interactive learning opportunity on the LMS, as well as do both test and performance assessments supported by NCCER trained assessment administrators and proctors.

What is different is that each apprentice and developing journeymen will be assigned a mentor to support the learning process and to help navigate the needs of LPR’s newest and developing craft employees. Mentors are LPR established journeymen, leadmen, foremen, general foreman. Tasked with creating strong and supportive relationships with their assigned apprentices, mentors encourage mentees to pace and complete their craft curriculum, provide leaning opportunities to meet required job hours and review and evaluate their progress as learners and employees.  With an established minimum number of hours for one-to-one weekly interaction, our mentor team members easily meet that criteria, often exceeding the expectations set by the LPR Training team.

We know that employees that feel engaged with a company are more willing to stay with a company, even if a competing organization promises a higher pay scale.  We also know that creating or accessing training opportunities on site encourages ongoing professional growth and allows for ongoing evaluation and direct feedback for our craft employees.


 Forbes talks about the value of formal mentoring…, If You Consider Mentoring A “Soft” Function That Is Best Left To Informal Relationships at Work, Reconsider

The problem with unstructured, disorganized mentoring is that only certain people get mentored: we’re a tribal species. That leads to unfortunate gaps, overlooking possible gems, potential diversity and inclusion issues. We’re now a social sharing culture, always on social media and free with our IMOs and candid reviews. You can’t afford a scarred employer brand in this extremely competitive talent market. It’s just bad business.

LPR trained mentors will tell you that they are already informally mentoring apprentices at the job sites.  The mentor model formalizes those activities and provides a structure that supports success for LPR Craft Apprentices.

If you have questions about LPR’s Craft Training Mentor Program, or are interested in implementing a mentoring model in your construction organization, please contact us at