How to accredit learning at work - your workshop questions answered

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At the Training Solutions show on the 19th and 20th June, one key session looked at how to go about accrediting training in the workplace. Training Solutions Show 2002

Hosted by TrainingZONE, the presentation given by Dr Richard Hale, Director of Action Learning Forums, IMCA, and Clive Hook, Director of training providers Clearworth, provided an insight into going through the accreditation process from the viewpoint of both an awarding body and a training provider.

The questions below were submitted by TrainingZONE members who attended the session, and were answered by Dr Richard Hale, Clive Hook and Leading teamwork and management expert and co-founder of the CPD Business School Dr Charles Margerison.

Q. With so many organisations, how do you choose the right one to accredit your learning?

A. That's a good question, because you say 'accredit learning' rather than 'training'. Consider your objectives in going for accreditation. Do you want a big brand name or is it more important that you accredit the organisation that takes place in the organisation? Do you want your organisation to be able to influence the agenda or will you be happy dancing to someone else's tune? Is it to help individual career development or organisation development or both? Pfizer the pharmaceutical giant commissioned training providers Clearworth to explore options for accreditation of their leadership programme and after much research they decided on the CPD Business School/IMCA because the focus was on accrediting action and learning not knowledge inputs. So accreditation supported real change rather than being a bureaucratic exercise. See http://www.cpdbs.org for some links to this as a case example.

Q. Is there much paperwork associated with getting training accredited?

A. In some cases it can be bureaucratic and retrospective. The CPD Business School/ IMCA approach minimises paperwork but maintains rigour by focusing on the participants having to explain their CPD questions, the actions they have taken, the options they considered, the learning they gained about the task or issue and their personal learning. This keeps the focus on the business and on planning to take action against business priorities.

Q. Are organisational accredited courses recognised outside of an organisation?

A. Yes, if you have them accredited by a body which has links to accrediting/recognising authorities. For example, the CPD Business School / IMCA has the following: Education Reform Act listing in the UK, British Accreditation Council recognition, USA recognition by the Distance Education and Training Council recognition reporting to the Department of Education.

Q. What types of organisation would be most interested in accreditation?

A. All sectors are interested – for example we are seeing a strong interest among financial institutions who are coming under increasing pressure from regulators to be able to show they measure managerial capability. The new ISO standards may also serve as a catalyst to organisations that are realising they will need to demonstrate outputs from training rather than just inputs (e.g. number of days training delivered).

Q. In our organisation we have a variety of training departments e.g. IT through to driver training and firearms training – with such a range, how would we begin to set individual accreditation?

A. You might identify the relevant professional associations in order to explore accreditation options or lead bodies relating to the specific area of training you are concerned with. A web search would be a good start – e.g. Investors in People have links to various lead bodies on their site http://www.iipuk.co.uk and the Department for Education and Skills site is comprehensive - see http://www.dfes.gov.uk/. So you may have to accept that you will form links with more than one accrediting body.

Q. How can we accredit trainers to a standard when there are so many training courses/instructors/techniques? E.g. each being an expert or specialist in one subject and with no training background, just experience and rank.

A. You may choose to go down the route of providing professional accreditation of training through taught Certificates and programmes which may be delivered by local providers and recognized by professional bodies such as the CIPD (http://www.cipd.co.uk) or the Institute of Occupational Training and Learning (ITOL) (http://www.itol.co.uk). Alternatively you may wish to define the areas of focus for accreditation within your organisation and use the CPD Business School / IMCA approach - see http://www.cpdbs.org .

Q. We deliver Leadership and Management courses and we are looking to modularise training and have the courses accredited. We would like guidance as to the types of modules that we can run.

A. The CPD Business School provides an accreditation framework which enables you to do just this. An adviser will look at the structure and credit map the modules and link them to the requirement for learners to take action in the workplace and reflect on their learning. This earns credits to a professional Certificate, Diploma or Masters qualification.

Q. We would like to deliver a half day or one day module where people can build up points to use externally for certificate or diploma programmes. Is this possible?

A. Yes, with the CPD Business School / IMCA approach they would have to take action based on their learning and plans from the course and they would write up their learning and earn credits. 4 Questions for a Certificate, 8 for a Diploma and between 8 and 12 for a Masters.

Q. We have a large technical/surveying staff group who undergo in-house training that includes energy advice, home surveying skills and customer service. Is there any particular body that would be relevant to this area to consider accreditation with?

A. You might identify the relevant professional associations in order to explore accreditation options or lead bodies relating to the specific area of training you are concerned with. A web search would be a good start – e.g. Investors in People have links to various lead bodies on their site ( http://www.iipuk.co.uk ) and the Department for Education and Skills site is comprehensive - see http://www.dfes.gov.uk/

Q. Could you give some guidance on the accreditation process and cost for the CPD Business School / IMCA approach, also the length of the process?

A. The process in using the CPD Business School / IMCA accreditation structure is:

1 - An accreditation adviser visits the company for initial discussion of options, costs and resourcing implications.

2 – The organisation joins CPD Business School / IMCA for an inaugural fee of £5,500, which includes the induction of up to three members of the organisation as IMCA faculty members. It also covers the credit mapping of in company programmes and access to IMCA resources such as the online business libraries etc. for registered faculty and Associates following programmes.

3 – The organisation can then register members on CPD Business School / IMCA programmes. Programmes are based on business related Continuing Professional Development Questions relevant to the organisation and the job holder. They investigate the question (problem or issues), take action and write up their learning in the form of a report that provides credit towards the qualification.

Q. How do you support the learners and their supervisors when running accredited action learning based programmes?

A. The experience of the CPD Business School / IMCA has been that managers of participants should be actively engaged from the start. Ask the managers to 'sponsor' specific Business Questions that the participants can work on that will help them as individuals and the organisation. Ensure the managers remain engaged by making sure participants talk to their managers and ask questions, and present their learning back to their managers.

Q. How is action learning best promoted to managers in the workplace?

A. Not always by using the term 'action learning', because the term seems to have such a range of connotations for people. Start from where people are by discussing where they have learnt most in their lives. They will talk about difficult job and career challenges not classroom learning. Use this to explain how they can gain credit for such learning. Set up follow up learning sets after formal training events and give it some structure with e.g. accreditation, online support and facilitator support.

Q. We are looking to have our call centre induction training accredited. Who would be the best people to approach and give guidance and support?

A. We would suggest trying the Chartered Institute of Marketing or The Institute of Professional Sales. If you want to accredit work based action learning check http://www.cpdbs.org

Q. Is it possible for an organisation to obtain funding to help with accreditation of training?

A. There is funding available subject to meeting criteria for the relevant funds e.g. European innovation funds, training funds etc. A good starting point would be your local Business Link and Learning and Skills Council.

Q. What support is given by the awarding body?

A. Awarding bodies tend to give the awards rather than support. The delivery organisation or institution will provide support in implementation and this will vary depending who you are dealing with. The CPD Business School/ IMCA provides an accreditation adviser to work alongside the organisation credit mapping programmes etc.

Q. Are these credits recognised with colleges and universities?

A. CPD Business School / IMCA awards are all credit mapped to University equivalencies. However, the awards are of professional management qualifications rather than academic. Having said this, as with UK universities there is a requirement for CPD Business School / IMCA programmes to be externally examined and the external examiners often come from UK Universities and other Universities globally. CPD Business School/ IMCA can decide which awards from other institutions it recognises (e.g. the CIP professional qualification is recognised as one third credit towards a Masters in Management).

Q. What are the benefits of learning accreditation?

A. If based on accreditation of action and learning as in the CPD Business School / IMCA then it provides:

  • Rigour in ensuring action results from training
  • A means of evaluation of the ROI on training
  • Personal recognition and career development.
  • Q. What can IMCA provide that other academic institutions cannot?

    A. IMCA is a professional association not an academic institution so you are comparing apples with pears. With the IMCA approach it is accepted the individual is often at the centre of much of the action and learning. IMCA was founded by early professors of UK Business Schools who realised that there was a need for an association that promoted recognition of work-based learning and Professor Reg Revans, founding father of the action learning movement became the first President.

    Q. How do you see accreditation over the next 5 years?

    A. Moving from the academic institutions to the workplace. Hopefully becoming business and work focused rather than bureaucratic. As helping define a new paradigm for evaluation.

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