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All In A Day’s Work: Offering Proper Training For Stagehands

Rather than gripe about labor problems, why not get ahead of the game and train them properly?

This article originally appeared on ProSoundWeb in December of 2005.

Any time a group of audio professionals congregates to chat, the conversation invariably turns to the topic of labor. That’s when the griping and complaining begins. It seems that less-than-stellar stagehands are an epidemic – at least to hear all of the talk about it.

Our sound company has nothing but excellent experiences with stagehands because we chose to do address this issue head-on. We do business with several labor companies in our general region, and developed a training curriculum that was subsequently presented to management at each of these companies.

The crux of our offer was simple: here’s what we want and expect from stagehands, and we’ll provide the training to meet these standards, free of charge. Perhaps not surprisingly, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Every labor company has an “A-Team” and then “a bunch of other guys.” The goal of our training program is to bring all of them up to A-Team status, so that no matter who shows up on a call, we can be confident that we won’t have to hold their hands, or lose valuable time and/or risk injury, regardless of what task is assigned.

One key aspect is scheduling compatible times to conduct the training. Several sessions covering each topic have needed to be held in order to allow as many stagehands to attend as possible. To overcome the “recalcitrant” (some might say lazy) individuals who don’t really want to exert the effort, we’ve informed labor company management that we’ll no longer accept stagehands that haven’t chosen to “bother” with our training program.

The program’s selling points to stagehands:
—The benefits of our experience, which will help make them more employable.
—The training pertains to every customer, not just our company.
—This is being provided at absolutely no cost to them.

In addition, we DO NOT share with them what we tell their employers, that without training they won’t be allowed to work our calls. Negativity begets negativity.

Seasoned Pro?

Half of the program’s curriculum pertains to attitude, since it’s the most important aspect of any job. We’d much rather work with a stagehand with very little experience but a great attitude than a self-proclaimed “seasoned pro” who knows it all and complains about everything. Positive work habits are also covered in this section.

The other half of the program largely focuses on techniques. Properly rolling cables and stowing microphone stands as well as a host other job-related activities are covered. It’s important to provide actual hands-on demonstrations a centerpiece of this effort.

For example, our company rolls all cables in the circular method – thumb and forefinger style. However, we also teach over-and-under, because stagehands also need to know how to do this for other customers.

Whenever possible, we also share our training classes with our lighting partners so that these various specialized techniques can be addressed, further increasing the overall value of the time spent.

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