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When is the best time to attend AMOC? By: Capt Aaron T. Vincent, Maj Benjamin T. Hazen, Lt Col Matthew A. Douglas

The following is the result of a thesis in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Logistics & Supply Chain Management at the Air Force Institute of Technology. The authors would like to thank the members of Air Force Aircraft Maintenance community for their participation and insights. Special thanks to the sponsors of this thesis:

Brigadier General Carl A. Buhler, Colonel Barton D. Kenerson, and Lieutenant Colonel Christopher J. Fontana, ACC/A4

INTRODUCTION

The aircraft maintenance (21A) community currently doesn’t have a standard policy that spells out the sequence for formal training and on-the-job training (OJT) for new 21A officers. The Air Force Personnel Center (AFPC) traditionally tries to schedule new officers to attend the formal Aircraft Maintenance Officer Course (AMOC) after they spend one month at their duty location. This time is primarily allotted to conducting in-processing tasks. However, AMOC scheduling conflicts and class sizes limit AFPC’s ability to strictly adhere to this scheduling policy. Since no set policy exists, we sought to determine if there might be any optimal formal training timeline for new 21A accessions.

Formal training and on-the-job training (OJT) are two of the most popular (and effective) methods to train new hires. The Department of Defense, the United States Air Force (USAF) and, more specifically, the USAF 21A community extensively use these methods. However, there is no consensus as to the best time to integrate formal training (AMOC) within an overarching, rigorous OJT program like the one established for the 21A community. Therefore, it is important to investigate if it is most effective for new 21A officer accessions to attend AMOC immediately, or to undertake a prescribed amount of time to conduct OJT beforehand.

To investigate this issue, we developed and deployed two different surveys to the 21A community. The Company Grade Officer (CGO) Survey was designed for respondents who had graduated from AMOC in the past four years. The Leadership Survey (21A commanders and operations officers) was designed for respondents who were leading new 21A officers or had led them in the past. This scope allowed us to gather information from a large swath of 21A officers, both new and experienced.

We begin the remainder of this article by providing some background on professional training. We then describe our data collection and analysis techniques. Finally, we provide the results of our investigation, and end with some concluding remarks.

FORMAL, ON-THE-JOB, AND BLENDED TRAINING: WHICH IS BEST?

Figure 3: 70-20-10 Rule

There are three schools of thought regarding formal training and OJT. The first school of thought favors formal training over OJT. The second school of thought favors OJT over formal training. Finally, the third school of thought favors a blend of formal training and OJT.

Formal training has been linked to improved productivity, but the high cost of formal training has encouraged firms to shift more toward OJT. In addition to a lower cost of training, another advantage of OJT is the ease of implementation. Beyond that, OJT serves to produce learning out of actual work, which simultaneously provides benefits to the organization and trainee.

Blended formal training and OJT may be able to draw from the strengths of both types of training. This premise suggests, for example, that if an organization added a period of OJT before formal training, the formal training could be reduced in length with no productivity losses in order to realize actual cost reductions or savings. Related to this form of blended training, the Center for Creative Leadership developed the 70-20-10 rule. This concept states that for training and growth, an employee needs three types of experiences. Those experiences are challenging assignments or tough jobs (70%), developmental relationships (20%), and coursework or reading (10%). All those experiences add up to develop an optimally trained employee in any industry (Lombardo & Eichinger, 1996). When applied to this topic, the 70% and 20% categories of this rule make up OJT, as these two components encompass learning from tough jobs and mentors. The 10% of this rule represents the necessary formal training. This concept is useful in that it helps support the idea for utilizing OJT in conjunction with formal training as part of a comprehensive training program. The graphic shows the breakdown of the 70-20-10 rule.

THE SURVEY

To acquire data for this study, we created two separate web-based surveys to disseminate to the 21A community. A web-based survey was the best fit for this study due to the large size of the population and geographical distance between the respondents in the sample frame. We focused the CGO Survey on 21A officers who were recent graduates from AMOC. The CGO Survey population included Second Lieutenants through Captains who had graduated from AMOC within the past four years. Additionally, we designed the CGO Survey to determine relationships between AMOC performance, actual AMOC attendance timeline, and preferred AMOC attendance timeline. The final CGO Survey included 32 questions and was administered via Survey Monkey®.

We designed the Leadership Survey was designed for mid-level Captains through Lieutenant Colonels who are currently or have served as commanders or operations officers leading new 21A officers. This second survey compared the post-AMOC performance of new 21As to their AMOC attendance timelines, while also gathering the respondent’s preferred AMOC attendance timeline. The final Leadership Survey included 21 questions administered via Survey Monkey®. Additionally, both surveys included questions to gather background and demographic information, as well as additional open-ended questions to help us understand more about the “why” and “how” behind the quantitative responses.

We disseminated the surveys to 1,247 current 21A officers through an AFPC generated call for responses. We received 332 usable responses across both surveys (26.8% response rate). We analyzed the data according to standard quantitative and qualitative analysis methods.

THE RESULTS

The CGO Survey had 116 usable responses. Additionally, 109 of the 116 responses listed their core AFSC as 21A, and all 116 respondents had recently attended AMOC and met the desired sample frame. Table 1 shows the CGO Survey sample demographic information.

The Leadership Survey had 216 completed responses, and 214 of the 216 responses came from officers with core 21A AFSCs. Additionally, the majority of the respondents are currently Commanders or Operations officers, and all have spent time leading new 21A officers. Table 2 shows the demographic information from the Leadership Survey.

Table 1: CGO Survey Sample Demographic Information
Table 2: Leadership Survey Sample Demographic Information

We did find some evidence that new 21A officers who attended AMOC after any amount of OJT scored higher than those who received no OJT before AMOC. However, while these results were statistically significant, they were not conclusive due to the small size of some of the comparison groups. Therefore, for comparing AMOC scores to AMOC timelines, we relied on the qualitative data. The coded qualitative data revealed that 73.33% of CGO respondents and 74.61% of Leadership respondents felt OJT added a frame of reference for new officers’ AMOC training. For example, one respondent said, “The classmates with the least experience had the greatest difficulty in class, and probably did not glean as much understanding.” While another specifically stated “…if I did not have several months of training before AMOC I would have been lost like several of my classmates.” Thus, while the quantitative results were inconclusive, the qualitative results showed that 21A officers who received OJT before AMOC seem to have a better educational experience and a higher level of performance at AMOC.

Next, when looking at post-AMOC performance based on the timeline that a new 21A officer attended AMOC, Leadership Survey respondents were asked to rate recent AMOC graduates’ performance after AMOC. The majority of respondents rated new 21A officers who received OJT before AMOC as higher performers than those who did not receive OJT before AMOC. Additionally, when asked to justify these ratings, 45.79% of Leadership Survey respondents stated that attending OJT before AMOC produced a higher quality maintenance officer and 36.84% said officers who attended AMOC immediately had lower knowledge retention after AMOC and required a greater amount of baseline learning after AMOC. Therefore, on average, leaders felt that 21A officers who received OJT before AMOC performed better post-AMOC than those who did not get any amount of OJT before AMOC.

For investigating timelines, we first, looked to determine when new 21A officers and when the 21A Commanders and Operations officers felt it was best for new 21A officers to attend AMOC. Both groups were given the following choices regarding perception of an optimal AMOC attendance timeline: prior to arriving at the first duty location; within one month of arrival; one to three months after arrival; three to six months after arrival; greater than six months after arrival; or write in one’s own perferred timeline. From these data, 63.07% of CGO respondents and 61.95% of Leadership respondents felt that between one and six months of OJT was optimal to produce the most proficient 21A officers. When justifying these rankings, 73.33% of CGO respondents felt OJT added a frame of reference for new 21A officers to learn the basics and retain more AMOC curriculum, as well as allowing them to add more to learning and discussion for all students in their AMOC class. Additionally, 74.61% of Leadership respondents felt it added a frame of reference for new 21A officers to learn the basics and retain more AMOC curriculum and it also allowed them to add more to the learning and discussion for all students in their AMOC classes. Thus, both CGO and Leadership survey respondents felt that new 21As should get a minimum of one to three months of OJT but no more than four to six months to produce a more proficient 21A officer post-AMOC while avoiding training stagnation before AMOC.

Additionally, the research found that 90.27% of CGO respondents and 90.64% of commanders and operations officers believed that OJT helps a new 21A officer before AMOC and 71.90% of Leadership respondents felt that new officers were beneficial to the unit during OJT by adding a different perspective and through their long-term benefits to the unit. Ultimately, through these findings and the initial findings we determined a predefined period of OJT before AMOC would improve new 21A officer development. This period of OJT should last a minimum of one to three months and a maximum of four to six months to increase retention of AMOC curriculum, to enable new 21A officers to bring more to the discussion and learning at AMOC, and because it will result in less remedial training for recent AMOC graduates once they have returned to their units at their first duty location.

FINAL CONCLUSION: OJT FIRST, THEN AMOC!

In conclusion, through this study, we found that OJT before formal training, or more specifically AMOC, results in better performance at and after said formal training. Both junior and senior maintenance officers felt the addition of OJT prior to AMOC for a minimum of one to three months but no more than four to six months would be optimal to produce the most proficient new 21A officer by improving the retention and application of AMOC curriculum, adding to the educational experience for all at AMOC, and avoiding training stagnation before AMOC. Additionally, these results fit directly with the 70-20-10 rule, as they show the importance of a blended approach to training. Finally, these results reveal the advantages of blended training by integrating the easy to standardize formal training with the benefits garnered through OJT to produce a more proficient output from formal training.

By applying these results to a general logistics training program, we propose a few recommendations. First, training programs should incorporate OJT before formal training, as it will benefit all employees in formal training and increase a person’s retention of the curriculum from formal training. Second, training programs should schedule OJT to fit their specific situation and needs but attempt to schedule OJT for a minimum of one month but no more than six months before formal training to avoid training stagnation. These two recommendations will result in a more proficient output from a general logistics training program.

21A CGO

This research easily lends itself to future research opportunities including expanding the scope to other career fields within the USAF, i.e. the munitions maintenance (21M) or logistics (21R) career fields. Additionally, this study could be extended to look at the enlisted side of the aircraft maintenance career field, other branches of the military, e.g. the United States Army or Navy, or a civilian organization, i.e. a restaurant or supermarket chain. Future research could also look to determine the specific amount of on-the-job training that produces the most qualified 21A officer or logistic manager, e.g. what is the exact amount of OJT between one and six months that produces the most qualified trainee. Finally, to branch off from this research, a potential future research opportunity could be investigating the formal training knowledge retention of trainees based on how muchexposure the trainee has had to the material before the formal training. Ultimately, this survey study clearly presents the finding that the inclusion of on-the-job training prior to formal training benefits the performance of the trainee both at and after formal training and this finding would benefit from further research in this or related areas.

References

Lombardo, M. M., & Eichinger, R. W. (1996). The CAREER ARCHITECT Development Planner. Minneapolis: Lominger Limited, Inc.

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