While schools were able to teach in person during the lockdown period, technology training sessions for installers were considerably affected. We talk to one provider to discuss the impact of the last twelve months on the delivery of technology training
For any manufacturer of security systems, training is a key part of its support programme to help enable installers to get the most out of its technology, ultimately for the benefit of their customers. The restrictions of lockdown have meant that face-to-face and hands-on training have had to be replaced with virtual learning and while we have now become familiar with this scenario it has meant a change in the way that content has been delivered. PSI spoke to Steve Woodbridge, Global Training Manager at Paxton, to find out how the company has managed courses during the pandemic and how it has led to a new way of thinking about support.
One of the interesting plot twists in talking to Steve about training during a pandemic is that in 2020 Paxton developed a number of systems to enable companies to work and operate during the Covid restrictions, and yet those same restrictions impacted the technology training courses to familiarise installers with the systems. Fortunately the team was able to quickly develop a training delivery programme to suit.
“At the beginning of 2020, before the start of the pandemic, our trainers had a busy schedule of practical training sessions available globally,” recalls Steve. “Once restrictions were put in place, we quickly adapted our training offering, developing further options to provide our installers and customers with the best possible support.
“The access control and video management systems we manufacture are well placed to help during the pandemic and assist in the safe return to the office and public spaces for Paxton system users. Providing flexible learning opportunities for our installers, and training them on how to employ these features, has been vital to enable them to assist their customers and businesses through this difficult time.
“To make this as simple as possible, we designed a virtual training programme which has been well attended week on week since the first UK lockdown. We have also started to produce more on-demand content for the Paxton Learning Portal. This is so installers can get the latest product updates and installation information in their spare time, at their convenience.”
As an installer you will know that nothing can compare to getting hands-on experience with products in order to learn every nuance of the kit and to be able to deal with any situation that might arise during the contract. For training providers this has proven a headache to deal with, but the advances in e-learning have enabled engagement with students.
“Over the last year we have learnt a lot about how to offer a more a hands-on experience in a virtual learning environment,” reveals Steve. “Our training has always focused on providing practical learning using our products, and nothing could replace that hands-on experience of the systems. So, replicating in-person training in a digital world has been the focus of our training team, as we found that sessions which are involved and socially engaging help to facilitate learning.
“Ensuring that these sessions are more than a webinar-style download of information helped us to achieve this. The groups are kept small to ensure social participation, and installers get given digestible information where they are encouraged to interact with the product. An example of this, is the ability to remotely access our Paxton10 system during the workshops to experience the software first-hand and be guided by an expert in a virtual class of likeminded individuals.
Using access control to help provide Covid-secure workspaces has been one of the most obvious requirements in 2020. For this reason, Paxton installers and end-users have been very interested in learning and implementing the Net2 system updates, including thermal scanning upon entry via integrations with third party hardware, Checkpoint Control, and Occupancy Management. Combined, these features help minimise the risk of infection by managing the flow of movement around a building, as well as limiting how many people can be in a designated area at any one time.
The biggest trend, however, is the use of Bluetooth credentials for access control. People now expect to use an app for almost everything and that includes using their smart devices to gain access to a secured building.
“Paxton10 provides smart credentials free of charge, making the system highly scalable as there is no limit to the number of smart credentials on a system, and ideal for buildings with people coming and going as they can be issued via email in advance,” says Steve. “Additionally, we have just updated Paxton10 to include multi-site functionality. This means that system administrators can manage multiple sites from one server remotely, anytime, from anywhere in the world. This has gone down very well in our training programmes and has been a highly anticipated since the system launched in 2019, with installer feedback helping to drive its creation.
“All of the new system abilities have been incorporated within all our training courses, along with other considerations to help companies understand how our products can be used to help maintain the safety of their staff and visitors.”
In the UK, Paxton aims to continue virtual training for the foreseeable future as installers have shown that they appreciate the availability and convenience of learning this way. Feedback has been encouraging and the extended period has taught Steve that as a tool, virtual training can be incredibly powerful: “It has enabled many customers to quickly understand and implement COVID-secure updates to our systems, as well as helped installers to secure and manage buildings all over the UK, during somewhat unpredictable times,” he says.
“Alongside resuming our in-person training and continuing virtual workshops, we continue to support installers with eLearning that can be accessed on demand. The Paxton Learning Portal provides bitesize modules that installers can access whenever they like. There is new material being added to the catalogue regularly and we have recently migrated the Paxton Learning Portal to a new platform, providing a more intuitive user experience with more resources than ever before.”
The constant changes in the government restrictions and an increased demand on an installer’s time, means it has been vital to be able to provide training in several different mediums, and be able to adapt quickly to an ever-evolving situation. Steve believes it is imperative to maintain the consistency of information and quality of delivery across all the different methods of training, irrespective of what is going on in the world: “We have a duty to our customers and providing greater flexibility and maintaining consistency for them is what I have learnt and will take from the time moving forward.”