Feature: The Value of Accreditation

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With the ever looming threat of outsourcing, Larry Murphy, technical training specialist for Centrica, explains how accreditation can benchmark quality and consistency, and in turn demontstrate a training department's value to the wider organisation.

As we all know, the training world is changing. Increasingly, very competitive market conditions are forcing organisations to demand more and more from their employees. This is as true in training as in any other business function. As the pressure on training departments increases, more organisations look to meet their training needs externally, accreditation can be a valuable weapon in the fight for survival.

There are many forms of accreditation, from Microsoft’s accredited provider scheme, to the Institute of IT Training's (IITT) gold standard and The Training Foundation's Trainer Assessment Programme (TAP) there is plenty to choose from. At Centrica, the IT Training Department is an IITT Gold Standard Accredited Team and all its trainers are TAP certified.

These accreditation programmes can add value not only to training departments, the trainers that work in them and the courses you run, but also the learners who attend your courses.

Quality
No training manager needs to be reminded of the pressure they are under. Demands for increasing quality, the drive to accurately map training to the wider company objectives, and the threat of being outsourced, are familiar problems. Accreditation can help in several ways.

Firstly, it can demonstrate to the strategic decisions makers, that you have been compared against the best in the industry. For example, the IITT Gold Standard came about after a wide-ranging consultation throughout the industry so all holders can be confident that they are up there with the best. A reassuring thought during times of reorganisation.

Secondly, the fact that gaining accreditation is far from easy, demonstrates a training department’s commitment to quality. Only the highest standards will pass muster. Also, because departments have to be re-accredited each year, it demonstrates a continuous commitment to these high standards.

Thirdly, having only accredited trainers in your department is a good way of ensuring consistency of delivery. Centrica’s team consists of some trainers who were from an IT technical background but not trainers when they joined and vice-versa. The TAP program enabled us all to reach the same high standard in training delivery.

Consistency
The IITT programme insists that clearly defined learning objectives are set down for each course. This ensures that no woolly, ill-thought out objectives are included in any training programmes.

Additionally, it will ensure that course objectives are closely mapped to the wider objectives of the organisation as a whole. This, in our case, has been another key element in our survival. As our Group Financial Director said recently, “If you’re not directly supporting the company’s objectives; I can’t afford you."

Accreditation with the IITT means that we are members of a national network of trainers, dedicated to ensuring the highest possible standards of IT training. The continuous dialogue between members enables us to keep up to date with industry thinking, as well as provide a rich source of ideas for improving the quality of our own training.

Staff benefits
Accreditation can add value to the staff of an organisation in several ways:

* A structured and accredited training program can be a major draw for the highly talented and ambitious people for whom there is great competition to recruit. This is particularly true of the graduate market. As Richard Malam, Group IT Training Manager for Centrica argues “one of the main differentiators between Centrica’s graduate training program and those of our competitors is the promise of a structured, accredited training programme throughout the three year scheme”.

* ITTT Gold accredited departments are encouraged to publish their course objectives and ask for feedback from their customers. This enables a continuous progress of ascertaining that the courses being offered are those the business most need.

* Managers constantly have to justify, to senior management, the deployment of scarce resources in paying for training, to say nothing of allowing people away from their desks to attend courses. This is made much easier if the training has been accredited and is benchmarked against the best in the industry.

Credibility
So, in summary, gaining accreditation for your training department or company adds value in the following ways:
1. It gives credibility, not only to your department and its trainers, but also to the courses your run.
2. Yearly renewal requires constant adherence to the highest standards
3. It can act as a differentiator, between you and your competitors, in attracting new talent.
4. It ensures that training objectives are well thought through and are closely mapped to the wider objectives of the organisation as a whole.
5. It provides a network that enables you to keep up with the latest thinking and best practice, as well as acting as a forum for the exchange of good ideas.

Whilst accreditation may not be the panacea for all the pressures currently facing training departments and companies, it can certainly go a long way to ensuring that those responsible for them get a good night’s sleep!

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