Laying the Foundation: Online Learning Coming to CSA

Katie Bodiford
By: Katie Bodiford

Executive Vice President

To say the year 2020 has nudged many of us out of our comfort zone, is the definition of understatement. But long before the word zoom became an overused verb and entering a bank wearing a facemask wasn’t a reason for the teller to summon the police, we began contemplating how to deliver education to our members electronically. And just like Barbara Mandrell claimed she was country when country wasn’t cool, the same could be said about us making plans to deliver online content before a pandemic made it almost a necessity.

But we haven’t been alone in our effort. CSA has teamed up with the Western Building Material Association to create Foundation – an online learning management system that will house content specifically designed for the building materials industry. Are we the first in this industry to develop such a system? No. But, marrying what CSA and WBMA both bring to the table will result in a comprehensive catalog of courses designed with the independent building material dealer in mind.

Casey Voorhees, Executive Director of WBMA and well-known course instructor in our industry, puts it best. “It’s long been a goal of mine to take the content that I travel the country teaching and make it accessible to a broader range of learners. It’s exciting to see those plans start to come to fruition.” A staple course taught by Voorhees is actually the first one in development. The Introduction to Building Material Sales workshop, commonly referred to as the Nuts & Bolts course, will include a series of seven modules covering topics ranging from how products are used on the jobsite to project selling, protecting profit and increasing margin.

In addition to the intro sales series, Foundation will feature training sessions on HR and workforce development issues, safety and transportation as well as financial management and customer service. If it pertains to doing business in our industry, you’ll likely be able to find a course on that topic.

To better facilitate the production of the courses for Foundation, CSA recently converted its onsite conference room into a film studio. Equipped with the resources necessary to shoot footage in the field, the first test was filming onsite at a residential construction site. “To be able to take the student out of the classroom onto an actual jobsite is one thing that sets these courses apart from other content currently on the market,” said Debbie Brady, CSA Director Digital Content.

Foundation will consist of courses of varying lengths but all will contain a quiz or test to assess a student’s knowledge of the subject matter before they can proceed to the next module in a series. And, another feature that will benefit companies sending employees is a platform feature called “gradebook access.” An employer can be granted access to monitor the progress of their employees and to see that they are staying on track or have completed their sessions.

CSA and WBMA are currently on track to debut the Introduction to Building Materials series after the first of the year. So, how can using a system like Foundation help you maximize your investment in training employees?

  • Flexibility/Self-Paced Learning. Have a new hire that needs to get up-to-speed quickly but there’s not an in-person course scheduled? The training you need is at your fingertips and will allow them to complete the sessions in conjunction with any hands-on training you provide. Travel can also be a challenge for many employees and an online format provides them the ability to complete coursework during work, from home, or even from their mobile device.

  • Customize Your Own Channel. Do you currently have an onboarding or training regimen that you’d like to upload and make available to your team? For a nominal subscription fee, Foundation can serve as a home to your own private training materials while allowing your employees access to all Foundation courses – all in one location.

  • Employee Recognition/Merit Program. Whether you utilize Foundation to meet training requirements or as a qualification for merit-based increases, the automatic certificates and completion reporting can help make your in-house training a breeze.

  • Boost Employee Morale. By investing in education for your team, you are demonstrating that they play a valuable, even essential, role in your company. Not only can you provide resources for them to perform their current job functions better, but you can also cross-train and expand their horizons within the organization.

Building knowledge is not much different than the houses that our customers build. As any builder knows, the foundation is the most important part of any structure. Having the right materials and knowing what to do with them is the key to any successful construction project. In that same vein, training and educating employees will not only strengthen the core of your workforce, but it will ensure that they do their jobs in an efficient and, most importantly, correct, manner.

We’re excited to offer this opportunity to our membership and, as always, welcome your input as to what’s important to you on the training front. I also welcome you to sing me a new song because now I can’t get that Barbara Mandrell song out of my head.

If you have any specific topics you’d like the Foundation team to consider for its course catalog, drop me a line at [email protected].