January 2010 - Class is in session at Hypertherm Inc., Hanover, N.H.--or more precisely, on the company's new training-based Web site, www.plasmaeducation.com.
Hypertherm launched the site in late 2009 to help educators, students and customers learn more about plasma cutting.
But Reese Madden, director of North American marketing, says the site also serves another purpose: to support Hypertherm's Plasma Cutting Technology Theory and Practice curriculum.
Additionally, www.plasmaeducation.com offers other information, including reference articles and sources of funding for the purchase of equipment, as well as a link to the Hypertherm Cutting Institute.
"The institute, found at www.hyperthermcuttinginstitute.com, is an online portal for the training developed over the past few years," says Madden. "It's available to our customers, and in some cases, to the public, as well. They can go in and learn about a variety of topics related to plasma cutting, including condensed version of the Plasma Cutting Theory and Practice curriculum."
The Hypertherm Cutting Institute started in late 2008, and Chris Lorio, director of customer training, says its purpose is twofold.
"We know people learn in three different ways--visual, auditory and kinesthetic--[and] we developed the Cutting Institute to make sure that we were hitting different learning styles," says Lorio. "Two, we had the opportunity to reach more customers than we could actually get to face to face. We don't have the capability to reach every single customer and every end user. [The Cutting Institute] allows our training, whether it be sales- or service-related, or even end user-focused, to reach the maximum amount of people around the world."
Development for the Plasma Cutting Theory and Practice curriculum began in the summer of 2008, when Hypertherm convened a group of educators in Hanover.
"We knew there was a real need for a curriculum, so Chris led them through a series of exercises over the next couple of days," says Madden. "He asked questions like, 'If we were to create a curriculum, what would it look like? And what kind of information would you like to see in it?'"
Using that information, Lorio and his team assembled a working model of the curriculum. In August 2009, Hypertherm invited the educators back to review the work that had been done.
"They were thrilled with the product," says Madden. "Chris made some minor edits to it, but he had done a really good job the summer before of scoping it out."
Hypertherm launched the curriculum at Fabtechin November 2009, at which time the company also unveiled www.plasmaeducation.com.
Lorio says the Plasma Cutting Technology Theory and Practice curriculum will continue to evolve to meet the needs of end users. In addition, it will likely serve as a jumping-off point for other e-learning offerings from Hypertherm.
"Our plan is to reconvene the educators this year to discuss what they want to see next," says Lorio. "Ideas we've heard so far include curriculums to teach mechanized cutting solutions, CNC setup and use, laser cutting--I'm just throwing out a bunch--so what we plan to do is continue to revise the plasma cutting curriculum by adding things on like articles and more activities. But our hopes would be to develop other plasma application curriculums."
Madden says this approach to training, especially the emphasis on e-learning, will likely yield benefits for both Hypertherm and the overall industry.
"We have a vested interest and an obligation, really, to make sure that the industry remains as strong as possible," he says. "So if [young people] can get a good education, if they can be exposed to these tools, if they can see that there is a future, that keeps the industry strong for all of us. And that's certainly part of what we're trying to accomplish here." MM