NFBA launches The Academy

W  hen the NFBA Board of Directors got together in 2004 for two days of intensive focus on strategic planning, no fewer than 28 initiatives were outlined as important objectives.

The group closely considered the strengths that the association possesses along with its weaknesses, opportunities and threats that — if not addressed — held the promise of a less effective industry organization.

Fortunately, NFBA has been blessed with hard-working individuals who have, since the current plan’s inception, been dedicated to the accomplishment of goals outlined in the original plan.

The result?  Since 2004, many of the planned objectives were achieved in accordance with the original timetable. Although the 2004 version outlined five years of objectives, it soon became apparent that the time had come to revisit that original plan.

Accordingly, in 2007 the group held another two-day session. Together we reviewed past accomplishments.  The true focus, however, was on how NFBA could best serve the interests of the post-frame construction industry and, accordingly, move the association ahead.

Perhaps it should not have been surprising that during the three years that had passed since the original plan was adopted, new obstacles standing in the way of NFBA goals and objectives had come more clearly into focus.  One of those was the subject of education.

Education. Sounds easy. After all, NFBA has been developing top notch educational programs for many years.  The delivery mechanism has traditionally been the annual Frame Building Expo, but also at chapter events when the opportunity arose.  However, there are more than a few problems with this delivery method.

First, try as we might creating stimulating and exciting events for the Expo, an industry event that typically features in excess of 25 educational programs, the Expo attracts 400 to 450 actual builder companies. Because educational sessions are going on simultaneously, that means an individual Expo attendee has the opportunity to participate in perhaps 10 such sessions at best.  Those attendees with more than one representative sometimes split up and attend more sessions, but this isn’t the norm.  Worse yet, after an educational program is presented, the important information shared is most often lost forever. 

Finally, we know there are over 8,000 post-frame builders operating in the country, as well as many hundreds of suppliers, building material dealers and countless design professionals.  That means that we are truly reaching only about 6 percent (at best) of our builder target market (and a much smaller percentage of suppliers, etc.), with educational programming presented at the annual Frame Building Expo.  This is programming that is specifically designed to help you prosper in your business.  That is a sobering situation to be sure.

Given these stark statistics, the NFBA Board faced some hard questions.  We know we have to provide educational opportunities for members – and non-members as well – if we are going to move the industry ahead.  How can we do that? 

Educational opportunities

From the reality that current educational offerings were sparsely attended (on an industry-wide basis), sprang the idea of launching an NFBA Educational Academy.

But what would the “academy” look like? Was it going to be a physical location? That would necessitate travel and the associated expenses that go with it…or the same issues that keep people from attending the Expo and/or Chapter events.

Was it going to be the development of “hard copy” training materials, printed and distributed to the membership to use however they wished? How then could NFBA “track” participation and performance?  What about the “NFBA Accredited Builder” program? That program demands builders accumulate “educational credits” on an annual basis?  How can that be tracked?

Each of these possibilities, and questions, had a significant cost attached to it, and that issue alone resulted in less than aggressive pursuit.

From these substantial obstacles a new idea emerged:  The development of an NFBA Academy.  The NFBA Academy would become an online training, testing and performance tracking system.  Yes, online training.

Here is the reality. Today, nearly everyone has heard of the Internet, and most everyone uses it on at least an occasional basis.  It is no longer foreign territory and the province of “computer geeks.”  The Internet is mainstream, and our research has shown that an increasing number of you are accessing the Internet every day to research materials and equipment, to pay bills, to communicate to vendors and others, etc.

Yes, it is certain that the Internet has become a big part of our daily lives and is here to stay.  Even more convincing is the fact that the average age of people in our industry insures that this is a medium they have already embraced. They are comfortable with it and are spending considerable time surfing the net for thousands of reasons.

It is absolutely clear that the Internet presents the perfect solution to NFBA’s problem of providing educational services to builders and suppliers, no matter where they may be located, on a 24/7 basis, and at an extremely affordable cost.  Given all of this, we are excited today to be…

Announcing: The NFBA Academy!

You can visit the NFBA Academy now at: www.nfbacademy.com.  You will need both a user name and a password to access the site.  Use this:
User Name:  user
Password: nfba
(NOTE:  You can also use the User Names:  user1, user2, user3, user4, user 5 or user 6 with the same password.  That is important because the list of training modules on the system will change as people complete the modules and take the tests associated with them.)

The first thing you will notice is that the Academy provides a very clean interface, meaning it is very easy to use.  This is a point-and-click system. Want to take a look at one of the (at this point) few training modules in the system? Just click on it.  It will open and from there the instructions are easy.  Each module has audio, so you can listen while you move from page to page.

When you come to the end of any module, you will be presented with a “Take Test” button. Click that button and questions pertaining to the material you just studied will appear.  Take the test and the system will grade your performance.  All tests (at this time) are set up so that you must get 100 percent of the answers correct in order to pass.  Suffice it to say here that there are many variables that can be set according to your preferences.  Check your individual performance by clicking on the Reports menu item at the top of the screen.

Note that this system is going to be used to provide access for members to an incredible wealth of information, training, forms, manuals and more as development continues.

Know too, that this system can be further personalized for your company’s individual use. You will then be able to provide access to your own materials, your company policy manual, company specific forms, information on your benefits program(s), specific company procedures, provide training and track performance on a company-wide basis (thus having the training records you need when OSHA calls for example) and much more.  (Call the office at 800-557-6957 for more information.)

Get ready for webcasts

In coming weeks, we will be conducting a number of online webcasts to demonstrate this new system to anyone wanting to participate.

Here’s the schedule, so far:
Wednesday, June 17
Wednesday, June 24
Wednesday, July 1
Wednesday, July 8

If you have an interest in participating in one of these group sessions (each taking only about 20 minutes), send me an e-mail in advance at: tom.knight@nfba.org

If you would like to schedule an individual session, please contact me at NFBA headquarters, 800-557-6957.

The NFBA Academy is just one more reason why the National Frame Building Association is a partner you can’t afford to be without!

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