By: Jessica Arenz & Drew Kenning
At Webanywhere, the most rewarding part of our job is seeing our clients succeed and we want to share their success with the world by celebrating their achievements in our eLearning Rockstar Spotlight series.
Our very first eLearning Rockstar Spotlight is about Franklin Snider, Founder and CEO of CATV Training Institute, a B2B provider of education programs for cable technicians. We chronicle his journey, how he’s setting the stage for training in his industry and the recognition he’s receiving for his work.
Upon meeting Frank, he was so kind and open, and imparted some wisdom that has resonated with our team:
“I have found (in my old age) that when you “force” a situation, you may get an immediate result, but if you let it unfold over time, you will often (most of the time) end up with a better outcome.
I can relate this to a piece of fruit on a vine. If it looks good and you pick it, it may be tasty but if you have the patience to wait and let it drop into your hand, you will have harvested the fruit at its very best!”
It’s been a pleasure working with Frank and getting to know him. Our team is thrilled to kick off the series with the Rockstar who inspired our series!
JA: Thanks for joining us today, Frank! Can you tell us a little about the industry you’re in and provide some insight on some of the problems or challenges in it?
FS: There was always a very limited amount of training available in the cable industry and for the past 35 years there was primarily only one provider. Cable wasn’t too difficult to learn in the early years and actually there wasn’t a lot of training needed because of the simplicity of the job. With the evolution of the cable industry and the multitude of products introduced over the years, there was a strong need for the “up-training” of staff. The cable operators created their own internal teaching centers known as “Cable Universities” to train their in-house people on all the new products, but contractors didn’t get the same level of training. Due to co-employment issues, cable operators could not train the contract labor who worked for them. (Co-employment is a relationship between two employers where they both have responsibility to the employee, but co-employment issues can cause problems with companies that supply contingent labor.) As time went on, the cable operators started to measure performance and realized that contracted labor was underperforming the in-house staff.
JA: How did you find out about this problem and why did you decide to act on it?
FS: I always knew the problem existed but not the severity until I got more intimately involved with them. Towards the end of my career, I was asked to work with contract labor and find out why they were underperforming our in-house staff as well as figure out how to improve their performance. In a very short time, I identified the problem to be poorly trained employees. I found this out by asking some of the management staff basics technical questions when they would drop off their invoicing. So, I came up with an idea to train them but unfortunately was told by upper management that it couldn’t be done due to our co-employment policy. However, they would allow me to train their management teams and then hope that knowledge could trickle down to their staff. So, I put together a 30-minute presentation on radio frequency (the frequency used in the cable industry) and started training their management teams.
JA: How was the response to your training presentation?
FS: The response was phenomenal. People asked me if I would moonlight or make a DVD. They tried to find all different ways to get me to help train their people. I told them it would be considered a conflict of interest and, unfortunately, wasn’t going to happen.
JA: Is this how you got the idea of CATV Training Institute?
FS: I was at a point in my life where I was getting older, my kids were grown, and I said to myself ‘maybe I’ll write a course on radio frequency, get a motor home (because that’s my dream) and travel the country and hold seminars.’ So, I wrote a book on it and gave it to my lawyer for copyright. After reading the book, he said “What else do you have?” I said, nothing. He told me to get writing because I had a gift. My brother suggested I try webinars and how I should use the power of the Internet to leverage my training content rather than physically showing up. So, I started looking into screen recording programs, Learning Management Systems (LMS’s) and also learned about SCORM compliancy in the process. At this point, I thought of having a website and a platform that would offer free resources to the cable industry. I envisioned an all-in-one location where you could find free cable related information including links and videos along with our school to help all cable field operations.
JA: How did you end up choosing an open source LMS and why did you choose Webanywhere?
FS: A partner of mine recommended an open source product as our school platform. So, we started looking for a partner that could help build my vision. At the time, it seemed no one could do what we wanted until we spoke with Webanywhere. They were the first company able to integrate a website, a shopping cart, all under one roof and make my vision a reality.
In the beginning, it was very difficult working with Webanywhere because they were overseas and the time zone and language barrier was a hindrance. The turning point with the company was the opening of the U.S. branch location in Chicago and the introduction to Drew Kenning and the rest of the team. Since meeting Drew, it has been absolutely the best experience to have someone that is always communicating with me and personally taking an interest in my product and success of my company. Drew and the new location have certainly made my life a lot easier.
JA: Thanks for sharing that with us. You came to us at our infancy and I’m glad we had the opportunity to grow together. I feel like we have a great relationship, because our interest in you goes beyond being just a client of ours.
DK: I got your back Frank!
FS: Wait, Drew is here? I didn’t know he was listening!
JA & DK: [laughter]
DK: So, I believe you taught yourself Articulate Storyline. How did you decide to go with Articulate and how did you come to learning the tool?
FS: When I was learning about LMS’s, I started researching authoring tools. I had a blank canvas to go with whichever direction I wanted and create anything I wanted. Storyline seemed to be the best product available for what I wanted to do. The project became my obsession. I was never tired or stressed and always working. I learned how to use the program myself – it was quite challenging but I loved it! For example, I would do something on every single page and then realize there’s was a master slide function which would have saved me a whole lot of time. I originally started with Storyline 1 and am currently using 2. When I was making these courses, I didn’t want them to be cookie cutter, which is common with most eLearning courses I see. I’m blessed to have my partner David, who has 25+ years of experience in graphic design, create custom graphics and media for our eLearning courses. I would drop his graphics into a blank slide and then create the layers and triggers for everything. Every time someone takes our eLearning, they go ‘Wow!’ Actually, I still say Wow!
DK: Those graphics and illustrations really do look nice.
FS: Yeah, they’re beautiful! I also work closely with a guy Jeff, he’s been doing eLearning for a long, long time and he said by far, it was the best stuff he’d seen.
JA: I hear you received an award for your eLearning?
FS: Yes, if you go to our website, CATVtraining.com, you can see we recently won an award for Excellence in Learning and Development from the Society of Cable Television Engineers (SCTE). They are the technical leadership for the industry and to get that recognition from them, there is no higher honor. Our eLearning is engaging, intuitive and self-paced. There is nothing like it in the industry.
DK: It’s broader than just a single course, it’s the whole platform and set of courses you’ve brought to the industry, correct?
FS: That’s right. We were also selected as a training platform for transitioning veterans into the cable industry. Being a veteran myself in the communications field, it was great to speak with them about my experience and how I worked my way up from an entry level position in the industry. It was a great story for them to hear because many of them come home and have little hope of finding a career.
DK: Tell us more about your work with veterans…
FS: What happened was, I got a call from a company called “Warriors for Wireless”, a non-profit organization that works to transition veterans into the civilian workforce. We went down to D.C. and presented, they loved it and we began training veterans with our products. We successfully transitioned them into the workforce and their employers said they were some of the best and knowledgeable employees they’ve ever had walk through the door.
JA: Well done! So, we’ve covered your eLearning content, let’s talk about your platform.
FS: I think it’s important to know that we’re a B2B business. Our custom dashboard is very unique in that it puts our business partners in control of the school and managing their students.
DK: Not only do you provide a portal for clients to take training, but another portal for your clients to manage their users’ training, correct? It’s like you’re providing them with their own LMS.
FS: Correct. Our business partners can immediately get students started, they have that control. They can see what their progress and grades are as well as have access to their certificates. I really wanted to build this to be as automated as possible for our business partners. Some of the recent upgrades we have put in place have made the platform even better. We continually listen to our customer’s needs and work to improve our product.
DK: So, what you’ve done with your courses has set the stage for standardized accreditation in your industry. Your Tech-Check feature is especially innovative — it allows anyone to come and check a learner’s accreditation. They can go to your website to verify if they are certified.
FS: Yes, no one else in the industry offers this feature.
DK: What are the two formal accreditations you’re formulating with the courses?
FS: The CATV Broadband Installer and CATV Broadband Technician. With our fixed seat bulk affordable pricing, a business partner can pick and choose the specific courses they need for their business. Whether they want to “up-train” their existing staff to drive performance, meet a cable systems certification requirements or start from the ground up with a newly hired employee, it’s all up to them. We also have plans to add more content as well as additional CATV designation titles through our tech progression structure. The CATV Training Institute has proven that together with our business partners, we can deliver technically stronger cable technicians at an affordable price.
JA: That sounds great, Frank! We look forward to continuing to support you in your endeavors. Thank you so much for your time, and thank you Drew for joining us!