By Diane M. Calabrese / Published October 2019
University” derives from a Latin word that allies it with “a whole” and the concepts of universe, society, and guild. Yes, even before the trendy label “university-without-walls” took hold at the turn of this century, walls were only an option. Learning is the thing.
It’s exciting, then, to write the words CETA University is back. “The board decided to bring back CETA University to address the need of our members for more education,” says Mike Tonies, industrial sales manager at Hydra-Flex Inc. in Savage, MN. “The board of directors unanimously determined that there was an opportunity to fill a need that many members have regarding training new employees and ongoing education.”
The enthusiasm for the effort has been great. “Every board member was quick to volunteer to help get CETA University up and running again,” says Tonies, who has taken a leadership role in the educational committee formed to see the project to fruition.
The organizational structure for committee members is not definitively set as we write in August. “Everyone’s role is still taking shape but having the volunteers’ support will mean as a group we can get more accomplished for our members,” explains Tonies. (Tonies and three other board members, who are cited below, talk with us a bit here about the status of the university.)
One element of the initiative is certain. “CETA University will play an important part of addressing a need in the industry to provide education,” says Tonies. “By bringing this value to life for existing members and future members, CETA will continue to help the industry get stronger and provide greater levels of service to customers.”
Location and format will vary widely. It’s all part of a strategy for pulling as many members—and future members—as possible into the whole of the university. (In many ways, CETA University captures some of the characteristics of a guild, which were among the first trade organizations. It just does so with a nod to the virtual ties that are as significant as real-world links in 2019.)
“The vision for CETA University is to cover topics ranging from—but not limited to—technical and systems training, business structures, and regulations to sales, marketing and outreach, and more,” explains Tonies. “This content will include submitted videos and training aids from regional and annual conventions, as well as a document library with supporting materials.”
The overarching objective is firm. “The goal of CETA University is to provide education to all members on a range of topics that will benefit them as business owners and help provide ongoing education to their team members,” says Tonies.
The wide scope of CETA University coupled with its commitment to exploit multiple approaches to providing educational opportunities allows everyone involved to contribute to the roster of topics. The roster will in turn grow and diversify as the industry does the same. With the university in place, it will be easier to keep pace with the dynamism of our industry—from new tools to new methods to new expectations.
It seems like a big undertaking. Yes, it is a big—and important—undertaking.
“The CETA executive board and the board of directors feel that industry education is extremely important,” says Bryson Sharp, design engineering manager at Northern Tool + Equipment in Faribault, MN. As such, the steering group for the university aims to identify and meet needs.
Sharp gives us an example. “CETA members currently do not have a resource covering such topics as safety, ‘how-to’ videos, trouble-shooting and servicing, etc.,” he explains. That is set to change.
Topics such as safety, burner technology, and pump trouble-shooting will be part of the curriculum, says Sharp. “We hope that CETA University can be a valuable resource for our members.”
Safety defines the day-to-day approach of any manufacturer, distributor, or supplier. “Safety is a big topic” in the CETA University curriculum, says Angie Farley Thurman, president of Farley’s Inc. in Siloam Springs, AR. “General safety issues and specific training on installing, using, and maintaining high pressure washers” will be covered.
Members will also be able to turn to CETA University to learn more about many other topics. There will be specific education on different components of a machine, including pump repair, fuel usage and efficiency, and burners, says Farley Thurman.
The latest findings from the CETA’s technical committee will become topics for the university explains Farley Thurman. So, too, will new federal and state requirements, OSHA standards, and the like.
“Basic and advanced business topics, such as hiring and retaining good employees, employee motivation, financial topics, and liability,” will also be part of the curriculum says Farley Thurman.
CETA University adheres to the philosophy that a robust curriculum can and should be separated from the alignments and attachments that members may have to particular business partners. It will keep the focus on education.
“Training will benefit dis-tributors and their employees by keeping them up to date on all current industry and safety issues,” says Farley Thurman. “This training will be done by our own members.”
The deep knowledge that exists among CETA members will be formally tapped. “CETA University will be a project that all members will be able to contribute to, sharing their own ideas, questions, and knowledge,” explains Farley Thurman.
Not only will members be edified by their participation in CETA University, but “this kind of involvement helps bind our industry together and keep our members coming back to CETA year after year,” Farley Thurman notes.
With a curriculum that includes burner diagnostics, pump trouble-shooting, safety, and sales training, CETA University will be a boon
to members of the industry, says Greg Sprunk, president of Superior Cleaning Equipment Inc. in Phoenix, AZ.
“The idea of CETA University is to provide even more value to members, especially dealerships,” says Sprunk. “We want to provide a library and or reference center for learning and training.”
Consolidation of information will be a corollary of dissemination as the university develops. “We hope to have a very organized and large reference center—not only from manufacturers but also members themselves—and pull information already available out there into one location, so that members have a place to go to train their employees.”
In other words, some members may choose to tailor their own courses by tapping the CETA University repository. In turn, they may contribute to the knowledge base.
“Members can also learn them-selves—from a variety of different topics,” says Sprunk. The rich educational connections are an end
in themselves for members and their employees. Yet there is something more.
“As the membership chairperson, I think CETA University is going to really drive membership in the organization, which will allow us to grow and reinvest,” says Sprunk. “It will be good for all of our membership, including manufacturers and affiliates, as it is all part of education and learning.”
Sprunk says that he believes that members of CETA know the commitment the organization has to “continually add value” to those in the industry who choose membership. “With the technical committee and the lobbying the committee does on behalf of the membership, the educational events, the PowerClean tradeshow, educational scholarships, benchmarking, and now the university, an annual investment in CETA makes sense value-wise.”