Dow Chemical Uses WorkKeys® to Prepare Employees for Advanced Training

The Company:

Dow Chemical Co., Texas Operations

The Challenge:

Upgrading the competencies of Dow Process Technicians through development and implementation of skill training programs

The Solution:

WorkKeys and ACT's Consulting Services

The Results:

A systematic workforce development plan that diagnoses employee skill gaps and provides training to close those gaps

Situation

Dow Chemical depends on the expertise of its Process Technicians—the employees who run the physical aspects of its plants, such as operation and repair of machinery. With more than 5,000 process technicians in 54 plant locations, Dow was searching for a way to ensure that its workforce was ready to meet new technological advances, as well as the skill loss of upcoming retirements.

Dow looked to Brazosport College in Lake Jackson, Texas, whose Center for Business/Industry Training (CBIT) is a pioneer in the field of academic-business partnerships in training and development.

Needs

As Dow upgraded the hiring requirement for the process technician position to reflect the rapidly changing nature of the job, the company knew it would have to offer training to help some current employees stay competitive and be effective. Dow and CBIT would have to meet four goals:

  • Redefine the process technician position
  • Create a technical training needs assessment
  • Determine and assess foundational skills needed to complete that assessment
  • Provide the remediation necessary for employees

Solution

ACT's WorkKeys Development and Consulting Services teams worked with Dow and CBIT to create a system to give current employees the tools they need to grow with their company. The system includes:

  • Skills Analysis
    A WorkKeys job profiler worked with Dow subject matter experts to determine the skill levels required to perform the core skills for the process technician position. The skills identified were Applied Mathematics, Applied Technology, Locating Information, Reading for Information, Observation, and Teamwork
  • Process Technology Skills Assessment
    ACT worked with the Dow/CBIT partnership to develop a Process Technology Skills Assessment (PTSA). Dow and CBIT put together the framework for the test. ACT made sure the questions were clear, nondiscriminatory and technically sound.
  • Foundational Skills Assessment
    One unique aspect of the project was the use of WorkKeys as a foundational skills assessment. ACT helped CBIT build a foundational skills assessment by examining each test item and deciding what skills workers would need to complete the assessment.
  • "Our goal was to allow everyone to have a fair chance at succeeding at the Process Technology Skills Assessment," said Larry Kirby, safety and technical training coordinator of CBIT. "To do that, we needed to assess their foundational skills and provide the training needed to enhance those skills."
  • Skills Training
    Process Technicians who score below the WorkKeys skill levels set on the Foundational Skills Assessment are offered training through CBIT to enhance their skills. Employees testing at the levels suggested are able to take the PTSA.
  • After taking the PTSA, employees who did not meet the WorkKeys skill levels are again offered training to enhance their skills.

Results

More than 1,400 Dow process technicians have taken Phase I of the Foundational Skills Assessment, and many employees have started Phase II.

The ACT, Dow and CBIT partnership is producing a workforce development plan that links training and job skills through assessment. For Dow, the plan provides a baseline from which to build an employee-friendly development plan focused on individual needs. The company is looking to expand this testing to areas beyond plant operations—to disciplines such as electrical, instrumentation and office professionals.

Outlook

After WorkKeys-related success stories at its Texas and Michigan locations, Dow is now rolling out WorkKeys use in its plants worldwide. ACT also is working with Dow to create a series of occupational certification exams targeted at key positions in the chemical, oil, and gas industries.

"We needed some sort of valid assessment of the workers' foundational skills that we could apply over some broad-based effort—something that we can depend on to give us a consistent evaluation. We chose WorkKeys because it is broad-based and EEOC-compliant, it has enough history that it can be depended upon, and we chose it because it's a fair assessment of foundational skills. We can count on it to be the same, whether we're in Texas or Louisiana or wherever we are." Larry Kirby, safety and technical training coordinator, Center for Business/Industry Training, Brazosport College