2024 Trending Stories: The Psychology of Training

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Training in 2024 is just as important as ever. How do you integrate training, education and continued learning with today’s busy contractor?

Power Points, sales pitches and doughnuts. Tried and true methods of training gone by, that’s for sure. But what does today’s training look like, especially in the purview of the younger generation of contractors that digests information in 90 seconds or less?

“What was that? Sorry, I was looking at my phone,” jokes Max Rohr, Director, Education and Technical Marketing, Caleffi. “Five years ago, a three-minute-long video was a good option, now it will seem long if it is over that 90-second threshold. Ideally, you get to the point in the first five seconds and work the explanation back from there. Like showing the cake and then going back to bowls of ingredients.”

According to, Dave Holdorf, Residential Trainer & Rep Training Manager—Eastern Region, Taco Comfort Solutions, it’s a challenge. “We’ve found that it helps to bring different instructors in for specific segments of the training. Each instructor brings their own perspective; even hearing a different voice in the room makes for a more compelling presentation. Every facet of our training is now geared to maintain the attention of participants. We also make sure to schedule breaks so that the attendees can attend to business, or need at home. By creating the curriculum with attendees in mind, their focus remains with the topic in front of them.”

Nevertheless, the training department at Taco has always looked at training not from a product view but from an application perspective, giving attendees the information they need to do their job better, and to give their customers the comfort they deserve. “We use real world experiences to solve real world problems with personal experiences and a bit of humor—as you know, John, it ain’t worth doing if you’re not having fun as well,” says Holdorf.

Taco Comfort Solutions, training, Caleffi, continuing education, education, plumbing, HVAC, hydronics, learning

Caleffi’s Bob “Hot Rod” Rohr brings his props and his wealth of experience and knowledge to trainings.

But what about those PowerPoints and doughnuts? “Every learning style is different, so you have to be adaptable. If you see the audience tuning out a PowerPoint, stop and grab a product to bring to an attendee and talk about a case study that is related instead,” says Rohr.

In addition, everything falls apart for a trainer if the audience gets the impression they are overpromising, adds Rohr. For example, “Honesty is something Hot Rod is specifically good at in contractor training sessions. As a former installer, he always has tips for getting the job done and workarounds that are really tangible,” says Rohr.

The New Normal?

The Covid pandemic saw what we thought was going to be a new normal with virtual training, but what we are now seeing is the importance, and return, of in-person training.

This past year Taco saw a huge jump of in-person training, on the road as well as at Taco HQ in Rhode Island. So much so that the company had to dramatically increase the number of sessions back in Rhode Island to accommodate. “However, that does not mean to diminish the virtual training, Taco Tuesday and Taco After Dark webinars are still posting a large number of attendees that are hungry for information in bite size chunks, not as large as when we all locked down at home, but still popular,” says Holdorf.

Taco’s Holdorf conducts a training at the Cranston, R.I. HQ.

Nonetheless, “when we’re online, we know it’s so easy to stray off to the next shiny thing online, so to keep attendees engaged, we encourage two-way communications. If participants have questions, we want them to ask immediately,” continues Holdorf.

In fact, Holdorf says that people who attend Taco’s webinars typically take it to the next level and seek live training. A combination of both virtual and live training can help attendees dial in on what they want to learn—or perhaps didn’t initially develop a full understanding of what it is they most needed to know. “These options allow them to fine-tune their training experience to make them as good as they want to be. And, ideally, we help them raise the bar. We routinely heard from trade pros who came to us for a better understanding of a single application or concept, and through that experience come away with an energized desire for much more,” says Holdorf.


In 2023, Caleffi performed almost a 50/50 mix of in-person and virtual. Contractors like hands-on training, says Rohr, so it is good to be back on job sites for that type of interaction. And, engineers didn’t all go back to the office after COVID. “Many of the engineering sessions we do are virtual because that firm may be scattered all over the region. You might catch 20 people in a virtual training, where only 10 of them are in the office that day,” says Rohr.


What about those who are stubborn enough to think that they don’t need further education and training? “I love this question and see and hear it often in the industry,” says Ken Midgett, L.M.P, Plumbing, Marketing Director, Interplay Learning, and former Teacher and Apprenticeship Instructor, Lehigh Career & Technical Institute.

Those in skilled trades should embrace the concept of being “lifelong learners,” consistently expanding their knowledge in their current specialty and exploring related disciplines. Whether licensed or not, individuals in skilled trades should assess their goals, career paths and professional growth within their field. It’s common for some to reach a point where they feel adequately skilled and think further education is unnecessary. According to Midgett, this assumption is misleading for several reasons:

• For example, a residential plumber could benefit from learning about commercial plumbing, Med Gas, Backflow, Water Well work, Water Conditioning, HVAC, Electrical, etc. Diversifying skills not only enhances one’s expertise but also increases their marketability across various skill sets, intern boosting income and long-term employability.

• Despite advancements in safety measures within the construction industry, the misconception that skilled trades workers are immune to injuries persists. While the overall safety landscape has improved, life-changing injuries can still occur. In such unfortunate instances, if an individual can only rely on skills specific to their trade and lacks versatility, their career may face irreparable damage. Therefore, investing in ongoing training, education, and professional development becomes crucial for ensuring resilience in the workforce and mitigating the impact of unforeseen challenges. Repurposing skillsets may be challenging when there has been no prior skill or professional development planning before the injury event.

• The industry, codes, tools, and methods to do a task are constantly changing. Skilled trades workers need to educate themselves and stay on top of new developments. This is critical to the success of a technician and company.

In the end, it’s what ends up in the ol’ noggin as useful information that translates to the jobsite. “Students only retain a tiny amount of the information that you present to them, but they will remember their feelings about the trainer for a very long time,” says Rohr. “It is hard to know if a bigger win is when customers retain a piece of information you presented or if they remember that you seem like you know what you are talking about. “If they trust that you did a good job, that memory will stay with them for a career, potentially.”