Most companies still use Excel, but you can do better.
Construction isn’t something you just wake up one morning and do. Pretty much every worker needs basic safety training and usually, other safety training in addition. Trade workers need trade-related certifications. Then there are the various management certifications and licensing requirements.
Tracking the certification and training of your employees — and those of your subcontractors’ employees — can give you a bad case of information overload. Yet it’s required work, since you need to know when it’s time to renew and be able to present the appropriate credential on demand.
Some companies still use pen and paper and have to dig through file cabinets to access records. Among companies that have crawled out of the Stone Age, most use an Excel spreadsheet. According to Loretta Foley, director of United Academy, the training branch of United Rentals, both large and small companies tend to favor Excel, even though it's a cumbersome way to organize such information.
"It's difficult to manage and keep current, and it doesn't remind you if certification is coming due,” said Foley.
There are better ways, folks.
Some training organizations, including United Academy and the International Code Council, offer wallet cards as a way for workers to carry their certifications with them. The cards display a QR code that the holder can scan to access their records. And there is software out there that lets companies create similar profiles for their employees.
These profiles are accessible to both employer and employee and can be set up to track expirations, giving you plenty of time to plan for the time and cost of renewals. “If 50 people expire in 2018," Foley said, "then you can plan for it in the budget."
United Academy provides free certification tracking via wallet card, mobile app or website for the employers who use the Academy for their employees' training, and to the employees themselves. The platform lets them upload and track documents, certifications and licenses — from United Academy or anyone else — indefinitely and free of charge. United Academy is getting ready to roll out a new feature that will let users access copies of their final exams and practical evaluation forms with a mobile app from the field.
The United Academy platform is so popular, said Foley, that companies that haven’t yet trained with United Academy are paying to use it to track certifications and course documentation. "Everyone can benefit from electronic tracking," she said.
Kim Slowey is a writer who has been active in the construction industry for 25 years and is licensed as a certified general contractor in Florida. She received her BA in Mass Communications/Journalism from the University of South Florida and has experience in both commercial and residential construction.