Monday, June 10, 2013

Want to Train? Learn Something About Training

In the 1980s in Australia, the Federal Government introduced a Training Guarantee Act that required every organisation with a specified number of employees to spend a percentage of their salary expenditure on training. This created a cornucopia of opportunity to earn easy money, but was an honest attempt by government to improve skill levels across the country.

Predictably, a plethora of training organisations sprang up. Every Tom, Dick and Mary became a trainer, many of dubious ability.

One or two people would arrive in town with a brief case full of training handouts and offer training in a range of topics of limited value. They would rent a training venue, enrol 15 or 20 learners and run what I call a sheep-dip course, a very short course, perhaps of four hours duration. Time management, negotiation skills, team building, budgeting, and a host of others were on offer. Firms sent their staff to anything and everything to consume their guarantee allocation because if they didn't spend on training, a penalty was applied.

It would be an exaggeration to say the system failed. However, it's true to say it had unintended consequences, those being the frequent focus of trainers on what they could earn and not the quality of the training provided. Within a few years, the legislation was repealed.

As a professional adult educator, I was saddened to see the arrival of what I sarcastically called "gifted amateurs" whose instruction inevitably involved standing in front of a group and talking at them. There was no assessment to determine what students had learnt and no evaluation of the course or presenter other than a short questionnaire distributed at the end of each session.

Some of those involved may have made good trainers, but they would have needed to learn something about the discipline. At a corporate level, trainers need to know how to identify training needs otherwise training expenditure is wasted. They could also have benefitted by knowing something about developing training and training proposals so that they could provide better quality outcomes.

Individually, trainers need to know something about educational psychology ... how people learn and managing their class groups. Instructional skills, such as proper questioning techniques, how to use overhead projectors, and instructional design are also necessary for training staff. A knowledge of assessment and creating appropriate assessment methods and materials is essential as is the ability to conduct thorough evaluation.

As is the case with most professions, there is always much more to them than meets the eye. If youwant to train, learning something about the training discipline and do the job really well.


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