National Training, Inc., provides programs for students, including military veterans, aiming to become professional tractor-trailer drivers and heavy equipment operators. The organization, based in Orange Park, Florida, has been in business for 37 years and employs 50 people. National Training combines distance learning with extensive hands-on training at its custom-designed, private training facilities in Green Cove, Florida. It also offers job placement services. The school is fully accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) and approved by the Veterans Administration, Tuition Assistance and Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES). National Training receives federal funding under the Workforce Investment Act.
National Training’s business model, including a nationwide recruitment program, a hybrid education model featuring distance learning and a strong commitment to job placement, presented a number of challenges. To attract students, the organization maintained a presence on military bases and in key metropolitan areas, but lacked enough field sales representatives to cover all geographies efficiently. National Training needed a cost-effective way to raise awareness about its programs and interact with prospective students without excessive travel. With a dispersed workforce, it was difficult to deliver sales training on a regular basis and to monitor representatives’ activities from headquarters.
Student retention and satisfaction are critical to National Training’s success. However, distance learning, while convenient, has certain disadvantages, according to Sales Manager Andrew J. (Andy) McLoughlin. “People who start the program enthusiastically may lose their motivation and quit because they lack interaction with peers and instructors. To increase retention, we wanted to give students an easy way to network with others based on familiar social media technology. Exchanging ideas, experiences and suggestions and accessing shared knowledge can make all the difference.” A related issue was helping remote students – who often lack technology skills – resolve problems with their home computers or online courses.
Once a student has completed the distance learning and hands-on training portions of the curriculum, National Training assists with job placement. “Even though there currently is an acute shortage of truck drivers, finding the right job for the 24 to 48 students graduating each month can be difficult. We work with a large number of trucking companies but sought efficient ways to match their needs with our students’ skills,” he explained.
Several years ago, National Training decided to embrace technology to enable online interactions among students, sales reps and prospective employers. Initially, the company implemented WebEx to conduct educational webinars but found the tool expensive and complex. After evaluating other options, McLoughlin selected Citrix GoToMeeting and Citrix GoToWebinar for remote collaboration and web events. Subsequently, the company expanded its portfolio with Citrix GoToAssist Remote Support, Citrix GoToTraining and Citrix GoToMyPC. The latest initiative centers on Citrix Podio, an online platform for collaboration and project management for which a number of custom apps are being created.
Citrix cloud-based tools are used throughout the entire learning cycle at National Training. To promote its truck driving and heavy equipment training programs to prospective students, the company uses GoToWebinar as the hosting platform for free webinars featuring a different trucking or equipment firm each week. “GoToWebinar is easier to use than WebEx and is more widely accepted in the industry,” said McLoughlin.
Internally, National Training uses Citrix GoToTraining to provide weekly educational sessions to its sales reps throughout the country. This tool allows McLoughlin to conduct testing and provide copies of materials to attendees. Another important internal solution is GoToMyPC, which is used by mobile employees to access their office or home computer while traveling.
GoToMeeting with HDFaces video conferencing provides a valuable solution for interviewing potential students, particularly when there is no field representative in the area. “If I don’t have a rep in Bozeman, Montana, for example, someone from our home office can conduct a face-to-face interview using GoToMeeting and HDFaces,” he explained. The solution is also used internally to track the activities of field sales representatives. Reporting capabilities allow headquarters staff to see how many meetings are being conducted by each rep, who attended and how long the meeting lasted.
Once students are enrolled, GoToAssist Remote Support comes into play. “Using GoToAssist, our education department can remotely support distance learning students by troubleshooting their computers and fixing any anomalies in the courseware. It’s much easier for our staff to resolve the issue on screen than try to talk a student through a problem.”
To provide interactions for distance learning students and their instructors in a social media context, National Training is using Podio. “We are very excited about the apps we’re creating, which will provide a networking experience for students,” said McLoughlin.
He initially adopted Podio for internal use: leveraging the provided customer relationship management app for the field sales team, which had been using a patchwork of tools, and the employee network app to improve staff communications.
Now, with a focus on students, the organization is building several custom apps, including:
“The placement app, in particular, is one of the coolest things we’ve created, as well as a dynamic technology leap for the trucking and heavy equipment industries,” McLoughlin asserted. “Podio is phenomenal.”
Still another Podio project involves writing APIs to integrate Podio with DocuSign electronic signature software, which will expedite application processing by the field sales team.
National Training is also seeing important business benefits from Citrix solutions. For example, GoToWebinar is playing a major role in driving sales. “We’ve found that 65 percent of webinar attendees end up enrolling in one of our schools. GoToWebinar is number one in bringing revenues into the company,” he said. Other Citrix tools, including GoToAssist Remote Support, help students successfully complete their training. National Training’s current average completion rate for all programs is 84 percent.
Embracing the latest technologies, including social networking, also helps National Training stand out in the vocational training industry. “I’ve checked out our competitors and I believe we’re the only organization offering this type of tech innovation. I’m sold on Citrix.”
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