Well, break it down for us. What do you want to train them on, what skills do you need them to know? Every theatre has a different set of gear and, thus, a unique skill set required. Let us know what they need to do and the CB members could certainly provide suggestions on training new techs up in particular skills.
I currently run the Audio department in the Event Tech Dept. at BVU. There are 2 students who concentrate on "sound stuff" with me. There are about 10 total on the tech crew.
I teach by getting the new guys/gals involved on projects. As hard as it is to step back and miss the fun, the crews learn more if I let them do the job.
New people start by lugging cases and throwing cables. Once someone proves that they have the right attitude and they can handle things like showing up on time and following directions, they get to work with me on more advanced parts of the show. Attitude is less important to me in the "junior" students than aptitude. I can teach someone whatever they want to know, but if a student comes to me not willing to work or unwilling to learn, then they might as well leave. Eventually, I let "senior" team members start running parts of events under less direct supervision.
I encourage questions, and try to provide not only a response but references they can look up further information. I would also suggest admitting it if you don't have an answer. Students can smell BS from a lot farther than one would think.
I also allow mistakes to be made as long as
A) no one gets hurt
B) no gear gets damaged
C) The show must go on.
I encourage free thought. If I have a student learning to set up monitors, rather than give specific step by step, instructions, I say "those two monitors go on Mix 4" or whatever. If the student wants further instruction, I will happily explain things. If they think they can handle it, then I watch patiently and check things when they get done.
Word to the wise. If you are the instructor, manager, whatever, you are ultimately responsible! Despite my trust in my students, I still look over the gear before I turn things on, and bring up levels slowly at first. Everyone makes mistakes but the gear is still my responsibility.
It takes patience, time, trust, and occasionally pizza, but things come together eventually.
ah yes, the sweeping of the deck. There is a proper wasy to use a push broom effectively. Practice makes perfect ion this case, but always show them the proper way to do it the first time. After that, make sure they wear gloves to avoid blisters from practicing sweeping the deck correctly.
With interested in passionate crew, training will always be enjoyable, and they'll be eager to learn. Otherwise, training will always be a bore, and you can't force someone to be interested.
Is your question how to train someone on new skillsets, or how to make the process more enjoyable?
I suppose it really depends on what you need to train your crew for. There are certain things that I expect people to know when they walk in the door, but I am hiring people who have some kind of experience (though it may not be much). Of course I am also willing to hare people who are interested in learning but don't really know anything yet. So there are really two ways to go about teaching a crew, do you need to start from the very beginning or do you just need to teach how things work at your venue?
For every new person I bring in I start with a facility tour. Point out all the areas we work, where the tools are, what we call different rooms/areas. Always point out my office and the main office and the restrooms. Since I deal mainly in lighting, we focus on what is pertinent to that.
I am a firm believer in learning by doing and lots of hands on work. I won't sit down with people and "teach a class," because there is so much to cover, time i limited, and many people end up learning better by really just getting down and dirty. For the totally green crew people I will teach things like how to hang a light, how to change a lamp, what all the knobs on a light do.
The big thing in training crew is that you need to train them to be safe!
I would rather that someone dumped a source 4 out of a cove than dump them selves out of the cove. I always tell ever new crew person that if they ever feel uncomfortable doing something then they should stop and say so. I want my crews to be safe and to feel safe. Gear is replaceable, lives are not.
I also orient people with how we do things here. So I teach what our cable and lens color codes are, and things like that, which are unique to our venue. After that I teach as we go, when a new crewton needs to know how to run the fly system I teach them that, when they need to know how to throw weight I teach that. This allows me to teach and get the job done as opposed to taking extra time to teach. I don't need to be throwing weight or pulling up drop boxes any extra times...
Now, I would take a very different approach if I were teaching people how to work in the scene shop. In the shop there are sooooo many tools that people think they know how to just walk up to and use that it really warrants a full training session. I would take my crew through each of the common tools, make sure they understand how to use each one safely. This includes things like screw guns and hammers all they way up to bench tools. I wouldn't teach my crew how to use a lathe on the first day because chances are they don't need to know that. Tools like the radial arm saw and table saw are a must. I also wouldn't let any new crew use any tools without seeing with my own eyes that they can operate them safely.
Of course I am not going to drag a seasoned technician through all that, but I would still check with them to make sure that their safety standards are at least as good as mine. I would also keep an eye on them for the first few days.
Generally when I'm training new kids on the boards and mixers, I'll go through and explain the basic lingo, ie master, subs, cues, channels. I'll show them the different modes and teach them to do a few basic things like record a basic sub. Then I give them the online link to our board and tell them to explore it a bit. Once they get the basics, I've found that the only way to truly become proficient is to explore it under pressure. I usually give them an operator job during an unimportant show like a band concert. That way, if they fade up too fast, I can correct them, but no harm done. After they can do that without any serious cringe-worthy moments, I'll give them operator during a rehearsal for a real show, when they have to be constantly editing cues and times and learning how to link cues. They do that for a week and they'll never forget how to record that one complicated cue that took so long to perfect.
Plus, sitting through the long torturous rehearsals teaches them that sense of what's right and wrong. They learn to listen for the beginnings of feedback, how to anticipate unmuting a mic, what to do when actors misbehave and wander out of the light. I could tell them 327 times what a bad wash looks like, but until they cringe for themselves, they haven't learned. I can't explain how long certain fades need to me, it's just a sense you get. They have to learn that.
But overall, it gets easier once you find curious, willing workers. Once you get past that step, it's all downhill. Good luck!
"So there are really two ways to go about teaching a crew, do you need to start from the very beginning or do you just need to teach how things work at your venue?" posted by icewolf. I say it would be the 1st option. I think that I might bore my students and they might all leave so the way I learnt was through this exact same process. Many of the people who learnt with me got really bored but I stayed for all of it.