Are you a mentor?

It's an issue that touches nearly every business and industry on earth. It's essential for growth, increased production, employee retention and the overall mental and fiscal health of every company.

As a matter of fact, there I was, holding court with ten of the cleanroom industry's keenest minds at a recent dinner, and I couldn't get them off the subject of training.

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It was generally agreed that the call for more extensive cleanroom basic training has been heard and, in fact, many companies have responded, making training an integral part of their SOP. Not only has the need for employee training been recognized, but this month we report that Leica Microsystems has invested in a 2,500-square-foot demonstration and customer training facility near Wetzlar, Germany — other customer training facilities are sure to follow.

But let's step it up a notch. “We can train employees, but basic training only takes them to a certain competence level,” I said to our esteemed guests. “What about mentoring? What about preparing your own replacement?”

“There are no more mentors,” said the 35-year pharmaceutical cleanroom veteran sitting to my right. “The people who've had a couple decades of experience under their belts are retiring, they're gone, and there's nobody prepared to step into their place.”

A trusted columnist, who was seated to my left, chimed in: “When they retire, they leave the company to fill a hole that, in some cases, cannot be filled.”

You can point fingers at people all the way up the ladder, but we can't escape the fact that there is no simple way to encourage or develop a mentor. A mentor is born, not trained.

Meanwhile, time slips away as production schedules tighten, so we have less time to be mentors. The labor market continues to shrink, so we have a smaller talent pool from which to fish. Turnover is on the increase, so whatever mentoring we were able to do is wasted. And from what I'm hearing in the market, employers have simply failed to establish a way to measure or validate the effectiveness of a cleanroom training/mentoring program that can produce real data. Just imagine if you were able to show a direct correlation between such a program and increased production and employee retention.

We're looking for answers.

Over the next several months, the editorial staff at CleanRooms is going to be searching for training/mentoring program success stories that we can share with all our market segments. Tell us what you're doing to tackle the training dilemma. We want to know what you did when a senior manager retired, leaving a critical post to be filled. You can e-mail me at [email protected].

CleanRooms magazine is also looking to help the market meet the growing training demand. We saw an increase in conference registration at the recently concluded CleanRooms East 2000, which tells us that the hunger for knowledge is on the rise. Several conference attendees told me that they've developed their own personal training program, with attendance at our conference being the key educational element.

We've also put our “Cleanroom Basics” supplement on the production calendar for December. This will be our third in a series of Basics that have done everything from simply define what a cleanroom is to walk new adapters through proper gowning techniques and standards procedures for validating cleanrooms.

As far as mentoring is concerned, maybe it's time to look around and see where you can make a difference.

Michael Levans
Chief Editor


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