Forrest Oney has been with Flagger Force since 2013. He started as a crew member—his hard work and passion for the job has allowed him to grow into his current role as training supervisor, overseeing our Field Training instructors and supporting the field training curriculum. Find out how he’s made a positive impact on the organization, becoming our most recent employee spotlight.
Flagger Force: Forrest, congratulations on winning the Employee Spotlight! How do you feel to be recognized in this way?
Forrest Oney: It feels like a big honor. It’s nice to know you’re appreciated for what you do.
Flagger Force: Absolutely! Tell us more about what you do in your role as training supervisor.
Forrest: Well, for starters, I train the trainers. This is the foundation of our program and is where the quality and standards begin at Flagger Force. This is accomplished by maintaining a big picture view of our curriculum needs and a culture of continuous learning for our training team. Every week, I figure out what classes are needed for our regional offices and then schedule instructors across our service area, which, as you know, is ever expanding. I also have a compliance role critical to our operations in maintaining our company resource of traffic control guidelines or “typicals” along with the needed certifications for each state in which we work. I also often teach classes myself! I wear many hats.
Flagger Force: That’s a lot to keep on top of while instructing, though it’s clear you enjoy it! What is one of your favorite teaching memories?
Forrest: One of our folks had to come through Basic Work Zone (BWZ) four times. The hardest part about being an instructor is telling somebody, “Hey, sorry, you didn’t pass.” To see that person take it multiple times, but finally come back and get it was truly satisfying. It was a genuine thrill when I got to tell him, “You passed!” And he was like, “Oh my, this is awesome! Finally!” Days like that are some of my favorites because creating a career for somebody is gratifying and watching them advance makes me proud of our team and our company.
Flagger Force: That’s a really positive story. I’m sure that feels great. After you started instructing, what is one thing you learned about yourself?
Forrest: Honestly, I was stunned to be able to even do it. Growing up in school, I was shy and introverted. The thought of standing up in front of a group of people even for a day, was like, “Oh, you’re out of your mind; that’s not going to happen.” But I took the chance and stepped out of my comfort zone. Now I love getting up in front of that classroom and showing them what they need to know. I enjoy helping them through it by sharing a bit of myself.
Flagger Force: What do you like most about teaching?
Forrest: Just helping people. I honestly love Mondays, which was not always the case in my past. When I get to work, I think, “This is what I get to do today!”
Flagger Force: Do you teach across our footprint or just in your local region?
Forrest: I get to travel regularly. I’ve been to every one of our locations except for our new Winston-Salem facility, which I plan to visit soon. I’ve trained in all sorts of places and conditions, and I can even say I trained through a pandemic now.
Flagger Force: How did COVID-19 impact your team’s ability to do its job?
Forrest: We are glad to be an essential business and our training needs never end. Our operations must constantly respond to changing conditions and so does our training. COVID is another change for us to train and adjust around. We stayed ahead of all the CDC guidelines and partnered with our clients through social distancing, wearing masks, and escalating our sanitary cleaning. The stuff we all know too well these days. To our teams’ credit, we trained through the whole pandemic to keep people safe. All the instructors stepped up and just kept rocking.
Flagger Force: Did you receive any training before becoming an instructor?
Forrest: To become a trainer for Flagger Force, you go through our Train the Trainer process, which starts with getting all the necessary certifications. You must get certified as a traffic control technician, traffic control supervisor, and flagger instructor through ATSSA. Then you shadow our instructors. It can take about six months overall. You just need to put the time in to apply everything you’ve learned and then figure out how to teach it. It’s not something you can accomplish overnight.
Flagger Force: Our training certainly sets us apart from the competition. The training team has recently shifted under the risk department and will be working closely with the safety professionals who are out in the field. What are the opportunities you see coming out of this transition?
Forrest: Honestly, I think it makes a great deal of sense. It’s getting risk, safety, operations, and training all on the same page, looking at the same things, and gaining a fuller perspective from each other. Now we’re collaborating as an efficient unit. I believe this makes us better as individuals and as a company as a whole. I am really excited about what I am seeing already.
Flagger Force: What growth opportunities for the training team do you see down the road?
Forrest: Personally, I can see us implement even more cross collaboration. For instance, when trainers are not training, they could more directly support the safety team in the field. Being under the same umbrella should make it easier for team members to try out new roles, while making them better at their current ones. There is a classroom component and there is a field implementation component now working alongside each other. The closer we bring these two parts together; the more positive opportunities are generated for everyone.
Flagger Force: It makes sense for training and safety to work hand-in-hand. How has the new BWZ class hybrid helped newly promoted crew leaders?
Forrest: I’m excited about it. We give employees a lot of information and we do a great job in the classroom. When we talk about it in the classroom and then expect them to go directly out and do it on the road, the results are not always straight forward. Some people are naturally good at that, but I think many folks benefit from a hands-on learning style. Our field teams now get two hands-on days in the field on an actual job with the guidance of a field specialist by their side. It’s been phenomenal for our people because it increases their confidence level by having this mentorship time.
Flagger Force: We are receiving feedback on our communication platforms that our field employees enjoy the training courses we offer and would like more training opportunities. What would you like to say in response to their eagerness?
Forrest: That is always awesome to hear. It tells me we are doing our job. I would say, “Thank you! We’re glad you’re excited about it. Keep throwing your hand up for those opportunities. Tell your field managers what type of training you are interested in, and we will continue to work to design classes that can bring the most value for everyone.”
MORE ABOUT FORREST
Who do you admire most?
My dad. Growing up he was Superman. He’s always been my mentor taught me a lot about being a mentor and gave me a lot of encouragement growing up, instilled a very strong work ethic, and was always supportive.
If you could meet anyone in history, who would it be?
Bob Marley. I read a story that before a show, he was shot by some people that didn’t agree with his philosophy. Instead of canceling, he did the show. He was like, “I have a message. I want to get it out there, and nothing’s going to stop me from doing that, not even getting shot.” I think if that’s the kind of feeling that you got, that’s the kind of interesting person I would like to talk with.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
You’ve got two ears and one mouth. Keep the one shut and use the other two and listen. Listen to what people are saying. They’re talking to you for a reason, and they probably would like to be heard.
Describe yourself in one word.
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