By Charles Bursey, Sr.
During my many years in this industry, I have spent hours both teaching and attending training programs. I have traveled to almost every New England state, and beyond, for training that I knew was necessary for me to “stay ahead of the curve,” as the saying goes.
My thought coming into this trade was, the more I knew the more valuable I would be to myself and my employer. Many of my classes were taught by some of this industry’s finest, and I would bet some of you may have even attended one or more of their classes. You may have also read their technical columns that often answered some of your own trade-related questions. I’m also glad to hear that many of my and other instructor’s students have gone on to become very successful individuals. Some have become service managers, field supervisors, general managers and owners.
For all of this, I often wonder where the urgency is for training. When I chat with some of the men in the field about training, they generally tell me that their owners or supervisors don’t have time to send the technicians to training classes. I also still hear the excuse: “If I don’t get paid, I’m not going on my time.” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, only those who attend training and keep up with the new technology will be successful and survive. Not just today, but well into the future. Training will always be necessary.
I have also noticed that several oil companies in the New England market have added LP and natural gas service and installations to their business plans. Most have become owners by acquisition. These same new owners have learned quickly that they can’t operate a LP gas company like their fuel oil company. They have found that a new dimension of training, delivery, service and inventory is required. Due to the fact that many of the companies I work with have made this transition, guess what? I have also been attending gas training programs on a part-time basis over the past two years, so that I can have a better understanding of this once foreign trade. Believe me, as the saying goes, it isn’t easy.
Regarding webinar training, which is the title of this article, some of you may be wondering what that is all about. I also wondered what that meant when I first heard it. For those of you who are, like me, curious but haven’t experienced this type of training let me offer my version of its meaning. This is an online training or general meeting program that was first established about 1998, and I would say it has no boundaries. Many companies have adapted to the webinar system for many reasons. One reason is the considerable cost savings that companies would otherwise need to absorb for transportation, food and lodging for their employees to attend a meeting or training program. The advantage of a webinar is that it affords one speaker the ability to reach out to several company employees and locations to get the information disseminated to everyone. The participants can also be very active in submitting questions and answers when necessary during the session.
I will agree that the cost savings and participation seem to work, but I also feel the one missing link with the webinar training programs is the touch, feel and smell method. I know that even today, when I attend any training program for a new product, I always get that little extra from the TF&S.
The same holds true for product marketing aspects. TF&S often can swing things when it comes to making a decision to invest in a new product, and let’s not forget those free samples that are sometime distributed by the speaker.
So, in the end, do I support webinars? Yes, and there is a way to have my cake and eat it too, as the saying goes. If the trainer could send a sample product, if one is part of the presentation, this would then allow the instructor to reflect directly on the product with those in attendance.
Charlie Bursey began his long career in the oil heating industry in 1963. He has delivered coal, kerosene and oil and serviced heating and cooling equipment. He has also managed service departments, worked for a manufacturer and currently works with F.W. Webb, Warwick, R.I. He is a recipient of the Association of Oil & Energy Service Professionals’ prestigious Hugh McKee Award for making an outstanding contribution to the fuel oil industry; having had an understanding and cooperation with his/her fellowman; and having unselfishly aided the industry in education and related activities.