JPL unit sees surge in training proposals
Benjamin Franklin famously said: Remember that time is money.
For a municipal police officer who needs to keep current with the law or a sales consultant pitching a new product, time away from work for classroom training could mean significant costs and lost productivity.
But thanks to investments in online training solutions developed by firms like Swatara Township-based JPL Integrated Communications Inc., that is slowly changing.
In January 2012, the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association launched the Pennsylvania Virtual Training Network for members to fulfill mandatory annual in-service training and other elective e-learning courses from organizational partners.
"It's a tremendous money saver," said Chris Braun, a retired police captain and technology coordinator for the association.
Mandatory in-service training for police officers cost about $60 per person. Through the PAVTN, it's currently free.
As of April 4, nearly 6,700 officers across Pennsylvania were enrolled in that training, and about 13,800 total network users completed more than 36,500 hours of online training.
At 56 cents per mile and with the average round-trip being 23 miles, travel savings alone were about $178,000, Braun said.
Typically, it's $60 per course per 23,000 officers," he said, citing the statewide employment level at 1,100 police departments. "We develop a course for $35,000. If 5,000 officers used it, that's $7 per officer."
Online also creates savings on facility costs and printed materials, he said.
And once the course is designed, it can be used repeatedly, which means long-term efficiency for a business or organization, said Jenny Kerwin, project manager and senior instructional designer at JPL, who crafted the online solution for the association.
"It's your instructor on their best day," she said of e-learning, to which more companies and public interest groups are gravitating to improve training interaction and availability as well as reduce costs.
Development costs of each program depend on the type of solution that best fits the organization's needs, she said. JPL might be asked to customize an off-the-shelf or existing learning management system or develop something from scratch, relying on subject matter experts and overarching organizations to provide the content.
We evaluate the content and what learning objectives need to be met," Kerwin said. "How can we group it and create engaging online training?"
The result is something that breaks a three-hour class into digestible and interactive chunks.
"A lot of departments have been able to blend training time into their normal daily work routine," Braun said.
The PCPA has been approaching nonprofit training organizations to move their programs online to the PAVTN.
"It's the way to get training standardized and out to all employees quickly," he said.
The association has partnered with organizations such as the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to bolster its online course offerings for law enforcement agencies and related professionals.
Learning solutions has been part of the business since the mid-1990s, said Luke Kempski, JPL's president.
The company has a core team of six staffers who work in this service area, plus other units that pitch in on development.
During the last year, JPL has worked with about 15 clients — mostly in Pennsylvania — on developing e-learning programs. Some of it is crossover business from another division.
"It complements everything we do," Kempski said.
Demand for these programs typically follows the corporate training market nationally, he said.
In 2008 and 2009, training spending in the U.S. was down 11 percent each year, according to Bersin by Deloitte. It was up 10 percent in 2011 and 12 percent in 2012.
When companies go through hard times, training is scaled back," Kempski said. "When a need is identified, they start to ramp up."
JPL also creates blended programs that incorporate e-learning with classroom training. In addition, the company adapts programs and presentations for consumer education.
Learning solutions currently makes up about 15 percent of JPL's business. With spending on the rise and a lot of new proposals going out the door, Kempski said he expects new employees will be needed.