Before taking their places on the railroad, newly hired craft employees learn to perform their jobs safely and efficiently at the Norfolk Southern Training Center in McDonough, Ga.
All craft employees typically receive three to nine weeks of training to gain a foundation in technical and safety skills before moving into the field. “It allows them to train in a railroad environment without being a danger to themselves or others,” said Dominik Browne, the center’s manager.
Conductor Training Goes Virtual
Conductor trainees at the company’s training center learn the fine points of switching rail cars without leaving the classroom. In 2014, the center introduced a 3-D computer simulation with a goal to accelerate training, enabling trainees to assemble rail cars on outbound trains in a virtual rail yard.
Opened in 1974, the center was the rail industry’s first dedicated facility for training and educating employees, becoming known as “Railroad University.” In early 2015, the company opened a new classroom facility featuring state-of-the-art technology, including touchscreens, smart boards, and tablets. These digital technologies help employees sharpen their cognitive abilities using interactive computer games to learn and perform a variety of railroad jobs, including sorting and inspecting rail cars and fixing locomotives.
The addition nearly doubled classroom space to 50,000 square feet, enabling the company to train up to 1,000 employees at any given time. The extra space gives the company more hiring and training flexibility.
Employees in 2015 will participate in a half-day safety workshop, “Risk Factors,” that focuses on why people engage in risky behaviors. Developed by DuPont Sustainable Solutions, the program uses images and testimonials to convey the importance of working safely. With about one-third of Norfolk Southern’s employees hired during the past five years, the company is taking steps to strengthen and review safety processes. DuPont’s program reinforces the company’s behavior-based safety and leadership principles.
Norfolk Southern pumps more than $2 million annually into the local economy through lodging and meals for employees attending the company’s training center at McDonough.