Each year I eagerly anticipate a call from General Communication Inc.’s (GCI) Gary Haynes, vice president of operations, or George Krumm, its technical training specialist for training support from SCTE. GCI is based in Alaska and provides voice, video and data services across the state. The company entered the cable industry in 1996 and currently employs over 1,100 workers.

Like many cable companies, GCI has been challenged with developing sound, consistent technical and customer service practices across a geographically diverse workforce that is varied in work experience and training history. Haynes and Krumm have sought ways to create cohesive training and bring uniformity to the way systems are managed across the company. One method GCI used to accomplish this task was to ask SCTE to bring its seminars to the company for in-house training. Over the past four years, SCTE has presented GCI both our telephony and optical fiber courses.

Standardized practices

This year however, Gary Haynes called me with an even bigger challenge. GCI wanted to make sure its entire workforce, even those who had years of technical work experience, were all doing things the same way and up to GCI specifications. Its goal was to ensure that GCI customers were receiving the best possible technical service.

SCTE is certainly comfortable customizing its learning materials to meet the needs of companies who ask us to bring training to them, but this was a much larger request. Now, we were being asked to somehow communicate an entire textbook of material—From Tap to Home: The SCTE Installation Manual. Most organizations I work with do this training over a period of four to six weeks when new employees begin working. Here, GCI would need to find a way to operate its business while simultaneously having its workforce, from across Alaska, attending class.

We decided to have SCTE technical trainer Steve Passen travel to Alaska to lead training one week per month, for four consecutive months. GCI brought all of its technical employees to its facility in Anchorage where separate groups of 30 individuals met over a period of two days. This enabled GCI to keep its systems running, while still allowing its technicians ample time for learning.

Eager employees

Each time I asked Steve about the trips to Alaska, his responses were invariably positive. He admired the willingness of all of the GCI employees to learn new ways to do things that they had been doing for years. I would always ask, "But are we meeting the goal of creating consistency in how they do things?" He assured me that indeed we were. We also received feedback from Gary Haynes telling us how positive the response to this training had been.

Now that the training has been completed, the GCI participants are enrolled in SCTE’s certification program. While I am extremely pleased by their active support of SCTE’s professional development programs, I’m even happier to see that it is possible for companies like GCI to create learning opportunities for their employees that will result in knowledgeable, well-trained work forces and happy customers.

Debbie Manoff is SCTE’s director of training. If you or your company is interested in receiving customized training, please contact her at 610-524-1725 ext. 237 or by email at dmanoff@scte.org.

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