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The Pilot Project

Northeast Ohio has had a long and successful run as one of the industrial giants of American industry. Many organizations over the years have had to retool their technology and workforces to maintain a competitive position. The rapid rate of change has prompted many leaders in these companies to examine the need for converting their companies into learning organizations. A workforce training and development group (The Work In Northeast Ohio Council-WINOC) designed a pilot project to determine the impact of basic skills training on employees and organizations. The intent of the project was to learn how a basic skills education could become the foundation for a company to progress toward becoming a learning organization. To this end, it was imperative to learn how this type of training would affect employees and the organization. Also, WINOC leadership wanted to determine the best practices that could be shared with other organizations. The ultimate goal was that more companies, mainly in Northeast Ohio, could begin to lay the foundation for a learning organization by strengthening the employees' basic skill level.

WINOC received support from the Greater Cleveland Growth Association and the Cleveland Foundation to design and implement the pilot study. WINOC partnered with North Coast Education Services (NCES) to deliver the basic skills training. The training focused primarily on math and communication (reading and writing). In addition, basic technological literacy was examined. The literacy definition and the source for the survey instruments were based on a literacy study conducted by the Greater Cleveland Growth Association in September of 1998. A sample of the supervisor pre-assessment is included here as an electronic link.

The project included nine small manufacturing firms. The firms employed from 20 to 260 employees. Six of the firms actually conducted basic skills training as part of the project. Two of the firms had been involved in basic skills training for a number of years and served as benchmark organizations for the project. One company joined the project at mid-point to test the lessons being learned by the other companies. A planning team was assembled that included representatives from each of the nine companies, WINOC and NCES leadership, and an external evaluator. This group guided the design, delivery of training, data collection, and reporting. The group also planned and delivered a basic skills conference to share the project results with other companies, educators, and government agencies. Forty-four participants from these groups attended the conference.

WINOC and NCES personnel designed an evaluation plan that examined the training impact on the employees and the organizations before and after the training. The evaluation plan included input from employees, supervisors, and the NCES trainers who conducted the training. These three groups completed assessments based on the results of the previous literacy study. Likewise, the evaluation plan included monitoring of selected effectiveness factors such as accidents, scrap rates, productivity rates, and profitability. The results of the evaluation indicated the training had many positive effects on the employees and the organizations. Also, project leaders determined numerous best practices for successful implementation of a basic skills training program. The project results and the lessons learned became the agenda for the conference, which was delivered at the conclusion of the project.


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