The Nashville headquarters of WASCO prominently displays its quality policy in the lobby. WASCO, a $30 million family-owned firm, has found that providing top-notch service to customers depends on how well workers are trained-all workers.
In existence for about 8 years, the Nashville area's Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee (JATC) program of focused classroom and hands-on instruction and on-the-job training evolved from an apprenticeship program pioneered at WASCO. William A. (Andy) Sneed, in charge of the firm's recruitment and training efforts, believes in a long-term commitment toward finding and developing new bricklayers. Most apprentice bricklayers at WASCO come from the ranks of the company's skilled mason tenders.
WASCO's dedication toward training laborers and potential foremen is particularly unusual and farsighted. Laborers are treated as professionals and are offered several options for advancement through a mentoring program called Each One Teach One (E.O.T.O.).
Sneed, who joined WASCO in 1977 as a mason tender, feels passionately about promoting from within. "The people are the ones who are making things happen," Sneed emphasizes.
WASCO initiated the Each One Teach One program in 1995 to improve laborers' skills, opportunities, and job satisfaction and to reduce turnover. The company wanted to increase job quality, safety, and productivity, while creating an environment that would nurture potential apprentice bricklayers.
After they take the Basic Laborer Orientation Course (BLOC), each laborer is assigned to a job and is matched up with a mentor. Within 6 months of being hired, all laborers are required to take two classes and must demonstrate competence. Mastering three levels of mason tending means an increase in pay.
The E.O.T.O. program encourages certified mason tenders to acquire additional, more specialized skills, bringing pay increases. Classes are offered for each specialty level, but attendance doesn't guarantee certification in the particular skill. "You have to prove you have the skills," Sneed stresses.
Designed to give employees a sense of ownership, the E.O.T.O. program is run by the E.O.T.O. committee. At meetings open to all WASCO employees the committee evaluates current training needs, schedules classes, sets short-term and long-term goals, and proposes training policies for management.
Having highly skilled laborers has meant big gains in productivity for WASCO.
As part of its ongoing emphasis on quality, WASCO decided last year to develop a formal training program for potential foremen. In keeping with the company's philosophy of mentoring and teamwork, WASCO employees who have expertise in the particular subject taught almost all classes. "Besides classes, we had roundtable discussions with existing foremen on problems encountered in the field, relating to logistics, for example, or discrepancies between what's in the plans and what can be constructed," says Dwight Spurlock, vice president, who oversees the foreman training program.
WASCO's commitment to training extends throughout the company's four divisions and affects over 300 employees. Allowing employees to find and develop their own interests is what WASCO is all about.