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Ford Develops Tool To Hone Workers' Skills

Automaker plans to cut workforce, but it wants to strengthen worker training
Ford Motor Co. is traveling a bumpy financial road, but it still wants to help employees hone their skills. So in the next two months, the automaker is expanding an internally developed tool called My Roadmap beyond Ford's sales and marketing teams and into its human resources, materials planning and logistics, and purchasing departments.

Eventually, all 350,000 employees will have access to the software to acquire needed skills and plan their careers at the company, says Ed Sketch, Ford's director of training for North America and Europe. The latest version lists 2,500 competencies and lets employees take an annual self-assessment test to see where their strengths lie. Employees can seek training through a search engine that includes the MIT data bank, Automotive News archives, 800 classroom courses, and 1,500 online courses. Much of the content is provided by established E-learning vendors such as NetG and SmartForce.

Ford last week said it will cut its workforce by several thousand. But My Roadmap won't determine who will stay and who will go, says Felicia Fields, director of HR for Ford's product development. Rather, it will be useful in reassigning tasks to remaining employees. Fields says she's used My Roadmap and found simple things she could do to build her financial knowledge-"the kinds of things that don't [usually] come across my desk."

Ford plans to sell My Roadmap to other companies but is still working out the details, Sketch says.

Hurwitz Group analyst Robert McCullough likes Ford's efforts but says he's not sure the plan will last, given the current market. Says McCullough, "It's likely to fall by the wayside."