New Hire training at NTC goes far beyond shop talk
Jan 15, 2019
For the thousands of people hired in recent years to work at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, one thing became immediately clear the first day they walked in the door — this isn’t your grandfather’s factory anymore, it’s much more.
And while everyone knows that factories aren’t what they used to be due to the technological advancements over the past several decades, what’s not as clear to everyone is just how different the process of training workers is today.
The new hire orientation process has been operated jointly by the UAW and FCA since 2003.
Since 2017, the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center (NTC) in Warren has trained more than 8,000 new FCA workers.
Wealth of information
Delrico Loyd is a former joint program coordinator for new hire orientation on behalf of the UAW.
Loyd said the new hire trainings at the NTC go far beyond providing basic information about how to use tools and do your job.
“Not only are we providing our new employees information, but also the tools that they need to be effective, maintain and create a diverse work environment, maintain a safe work environment and a number of other things,” Loyd said. “We believe that it’s important we equip all of our new employees with the information and tools to be successful. Not just in effectuating and executing their job, but also in creating and maintaining a respectful working environment.”
Colleen McBrady works at the NTC as the FCA joint program coordinator for new hires.
McBrady said that some of the agenda items provided to the UAW-represented new hires are focused on critical job expectations.
“We review standards of conduct, which tells all the employees what is expected — no videotaping conversations in the building, inappropriate conduct, failure to follow safety procedures and responsibilities as an FCA employee, staying out of drama,” McBrady said. “Attendance is especially important. That’s another thing that we share with them, the plant can’t operate if there’s not enough people to run it.”
Diversity and more
One modern twist on training is a focus on diversity and civility. Loyd explained the kind of topics generally covered in this area.
“One important program provided relates to diversity, sexual harassment prevention training, sensitivity training and workplace violence prevention training, because we understand that one of the keys to a happy and productive workforce is a respectful working environment,” Loyd said. “Our capable and thorough trainers talk to them about civility in the workplace, our policies around discrimination and sexual harassment. We want to make sure we’re treating each other with respect and we want to make sure our employees know how to respond in a situation when they are experiencing incivility and disrespect.”
Health and Safety
Factories have always been an area where safety is a concern, that’s one thing that hasn’t changed. And McBrady stressed that this is an area where much effort is placed during new hire orientation and beyond.
“Another huge component of our new hire orientation is health and safety. You’re going to hear everyone on both the FCA and union side preaching health and safety,” McBrady said. “We provide about an hour here, then when our new hires go to the plant they get a full day of training. It’s mandatory. In certain locations, employees cannot even go on the plant floor until they have received plant-specific health and safety training, because that’s really the most important thing to us — their safety. And typically, contractually, there’s some additional follow-up for health and safety provided by plant health and safety trainers.”
Loyd echoed these thoughts about safety, saying: “We want to make sure our new employees not only make good wages, but they also safely go home to their families each day.”
One thing that’s unique about the FCA experience is the partnership between the UAW and FCA in organizing the training sessions and coming out with a unified message. Loyd said the two sides have an excellent relationship, with both partners having an equal say in how things run at the NTC.
“When you talk about the importance of partnership, through our contract negotiations, both parties have agreed — the company and the union — that there is joint value in us doing things together,” he said. “Here at the NTC, union and management work not with one being more important than the other, but as joint partners in managing the joint programs that we sponsor. Our new hires sit through very thorough training sessions that are constructed and crafted by both parties — both the company and the UAW.”
“Being able to hear about health and safety, sexual harassment, diversity, and to hear it from joint leadership from FCA and UAW really helps the members understand we’re working together to provide the best services, benefits and opportunities through their career at FCA,” McBrady added.
Beyond the initial training, workers at FCA have the support of the company and can get help through the Employee Assistance Program for any personal issues that need to be resolved.
“If they have life concerns that make it difficult to focus on their jobs, we connect them with resources like day care or care for elderly parents, or if they are navigating addiction, we connect them with the appropriate counseling and treatment,” Loyd said.
Also, McBrady said the tuition assistance program provides up to $5,000 per year to help employees go back to school.
Keeping employees connected
Loyd said that in the end, the comprehensive nature of the new hire training, plus the joint program implementation between the union and the management, makes FCA’s UAW-represented employees feel connected to the company.
“We sit down and we say yes together, and that makes it more valuable to our members. It’s a program where we have employee buy-in through their UAW representatives.”