Composites Companies Bolster Training

Workforce education efforts by industry organizations, community colleges and economic development groups are critical, but composites companies must pull their weight, too – and not just as advisors providing occasional input on their workforce needs or program curriculum. One company that routinely evaluates its internal training to ensure it’s up to par is Bestbath Systems Inc., a manufacturer of FRP bathing products in Caldwell, Idaho.

In 2018, Bestbath instituted a career mapping initiative that outlines the requirements for employees to further their skill sets and advance within the company. “Career mapping gives hourly employees the foresight to know how they can move up the ranks from a beginning employee all the way up to a technician II,” says Frank Alvarez, facilities and maintenance manager for Bestbath.

The manufacturer has a six-step career ladder for its hourly employees: operator I, operator II, specialist I, specialist II, technician I and technician II. Employees must fulfill hands-on training, complete classes and meet designated employment anniversaries to move up the ladder. The specific requirements vary by department and are selected by Bestbath’s executive leadership team and departmental managers. For instance, employees in Alvarez’s department must know how to rebuild pumps, spray guns and other equipment prior to advancement. The production manager holds a controlled spray class a couple times a year that employees on the shop floor must attend.

No matter the department, employees who want to advance from specialist I to specialist II must earn and maintain their CCT – Open Molding. Alvarez and Hugo Castillo, continuous improvement leader at Bestbath, have earned CCT – Instructor designations and teach classes on site, breaking down the content into one-hour modules during work hours. Together, the instructors and employees review content in study guides, watch educational videos, view PowerPoint presentations and answer sample test questions at the end of each module.

“One of the most important things is making sure we have employee participation in the classes,” says Castillo. “It’s OK not to have all the information. As a group, we figure it out together.” Working together and encouraging one another has helped Bestbath employees achieve a high success rate on the CCT exam: The company currently has 38 Certified Composites Technicians.

Quality control is also paramount at Bestbath. “We put a big emphasis on continuous improvement and lean manufacturing,” says Castillo. One of the career mapping requirements encourages employees to either be a member of the safety committee for six months to one year, present lean items related to continuous improvement to the leadership team or introduce an A3 project (a structured problem-solving approach to a particular issue). “We give employees options so they are not pigeonholed into one prerequisite to complete their career mapping,” says Alvarez.