Blackfox Shares Tips for Successful Skills Training

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Feature Q&A with Sharon Montana-Beard, Blackfox Training

Successful skills training is a crucial part of the onboarding process and can take experienced staff members away from their primary jobs on the manufacturing floor. Effective training to onboard new employees not only speeds up ramp-up times, but can be customized to a company’s specific needs. We posed these four questions about new-hire training to Sharon Montana-Beard, vice president of sales and operations at Blackfox.

Q: What topics/skills does the typical new-hire course of training contain? 

A: At Blackfox, our typical entry level training follows a set course flow. In phase one, we begin with how to recognize through-hole surface mount components. Then we move on to ESD and safety with electronics. Phase two moves into soldering workmanship per IPC-A-610 and J-STD-001 standards, with a course on terminal and post soldering, through-hole soldering, and then continuing to surface mount soldering and fine-pitch workmanship. 

If cables and wire harnesses knowledge is needed, we train on the following, to IPC/WHMA-A-620 workmanship requirements:

  1. Safety
  2. Documentation and print reading
  3. Wire preparation
  4. Terminal and post soldering
  5. Crimping
  6. Wire harness assembly

Q: How much latitude is there for customer-specific training? Can HR pick skills a la carte?

A: Blackfox offers 26 different courses, all of which are kept updated to IPC standards workmanship requirements. Training organizers may mix and match the custom solder training courses as appropriate for their training needs.

Q: Does Blackfox develop customer-specific training courses? What is involved?

A: If a customer has a specific skill set, they need their operators or technicians to learn that Blackfox can do that. Ideally, we perform a customer site assessment to better understand what needs to be taught. If it is not possible to visit the customer site, then we work with the customer to obtain photos, specific information, instructions, and such. Essentially, we perform a series of information fact-finding exercises. Once that is completed, if that training is similar to an existing Blackfox course, we add their company-specific images and instructions to the content and remove the portions that do not apply. Next, we evaluate the time needed to customize that course, course duration, and other details to the customer in the form of a course proposal. Sometimes, the proposal includes paid development time for new content. Once completed, the customized training course is reviewed and approved by the customer. When they accept the training course, a training schedule is then agreed upon.

Q: What did you find were the results of your training?

There are several key indicators that result from training programs, including:

  • Credibility with customers: Employees are trained by professional trainers, learning quality workmanship, and how to properly solder or assemble.
  • Instructional design: Companies do not have to create and develop the training materials.
  • Equipment availability: Blackfox provides all tools and equipment for onsite training so as to not take away from tools that are needed in production.
  • Professional trainers: Training need not require taking someone away from what they are doing to train new employees.
  • Effective allocated time: Training time is minimized to speed the process of adding the new worker to the workforce.
  • Immediate results: Once the employee is successfully trained in specific skills, they are immediately productive, performing quality tasks for their products.
  • Minimize attrition: Properly trained new employees have the confidence to do a good job and tend to appreciate that a company has invested in them. If not properly trained for their assigned job, they may feel lost, become frustrated, leading some to eventually lose interest and leave.

This interview originally appears in the May 2023 issue of SMT007 Magazine.


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