Barbara Rose set up an in-house training program at S.N. Peck, Builders for several reasons. First, the company has complex, high-end projects and works with demanding architects and customers. “The world is not full of carpenters who do good work, so we needed to train them,” says the president of the Chicago firm.

Second, she knows the company can only grow if their people grow. The in-house training shows the company's commitment to its employees and allows for promotion from within.

Last, the training helps the employees perform well and take pride in a job well done, which translates to happy clients.

The company's operation manager and two project managers are responsible for the subject matter. The sessions take place twice a month — typically Wednesday afternoons from 2 to 4.

The entire curriculum takes three years. Some sessions are held in the classroom with textbooks, videos, or guest speakers. Other sessions are hands-on workshops in the company's warehouse where employees learn to frame a window or install siding.

Sometimes the project managers cover specific topics based on a current project. “If we have an interesting hip roof, we might do one or more sessions on framing that roof — or on a custom stairway, or installing an unusual window,” Rose says. “We might bring all our apprentices there to do that work, so they'll be doing it on the job,” she says.

Though most sessions are field-related, those that cover customer service or culture-related topics are open to the whole company. For example, Rose, a former teacher, conducts a workshop on communication skills.

Though the training clearly benefits all employees, Rose says the employees who already have a good work ethic seem to get the most from the classes. “They are learning things and get to use them right away, and it impacts their performance review and their ability to move up,” she says.