The future's bright if we say no to the new standards

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'A bright future is having effectively trained people, but we need to train that future to fit those people'

So said Brian Graham in his 1992 thesis on Methodology and he is quite correct in his hypothesis.

Listening, looking, talking, doing - that is what training is all about. It can either be a very simple and satisfying task or an extremely difficult and frustrating one - there is usually no middle ground in my experience. For training to work, the trainee must see how training pays off - the younger ones how it helped others get ahead, how it built job security and increased income, and for the more mature, how prestige through skills gets them noticed by fellow workers. Training should show both groups that learning new skills or trades or better methods of working, produces not only quality, but makes work itself more interesting, gratifying and rewarding.

Quality of training is the key to achieving customer satisfaction whilst training itself is usually a voluntary process and sometimes not always a smooth ride. People build up knowledge by adding new skills to what they already know and that build up process needs to be nurtured and encouraged throughout any training course.

Therefore, in preparing quality training packages, training providers have to consider a number of important elements:

- Training should be simple and interesting, structured yet flexible in content
- It should be at the right level and pace, making it feel comfortable and relaxed
- Training should be aware of individual differences within groups of people
- It must be effective and motivational, encouraging the learning process

What is important to people is that as participants in a training scheme, they are treated as adults, that their experience, however little, is welcomed and valued, and that as they actively participate, they feel at ease with others on the same course. This ideal is being threatened by the new standards.

Most quality training has actively supported this attitude for a number of years, and through trainer professionalism, experience and motivation, many successful job seekers owe a debt of gratitude for their training and development.

When I began my training with a local provider, little did I know that within 18 months I would be employed by them, training others to better themselves as I had. Quality training is allegedly part of their mission but that stands for nothing without determination on the part of the person receiving that training. That self-motivational attitude is also being threatened.

During my time with them, I achieved NVQs in Information Technology, Administration and Customer Service up to and including level III, as well as successfully completing RSA and City & Guilds TDLB Assessor Awards. With the help and guidance of a small but dedicated group of trainers (too few unfortunately), plus my own determination and ability, I succeeded in a highly competitive job market. I applied for the job of Trainer/Assessor with them in December of 1996 and began work with adult trainees at their satellite site in the Dearne Valley. When Labour's flag ship New Deal came into being I was involved in its inception in Mexborough, and in 1999 I designed and developed a brand new Call Centre course for them which delivered a 84% success rate with trainee employment with the likes of Ventura and One-2-One.

So why did I do so well?

I used the training system, because at that time you HAD to learn to gain a qualification. When I joined the training provider as a trainee I had never completely understood computers. I was experienced in word processing because I°¶d been a journalist for ten years but nothing else °V they taught me a lot and I enjoyed the experience and the challenge. It was then up to me to use the system again so I stuck my foot firmly in their door and wouldn't take it out until they gave me a job - they did, and so I joined the system and tried to change it - just a little.

I have my own ideas on training. Personal example is a powerful tool for communication - since I've been employed by local training providers, both in Doncaster and previously in the Dearne valley, I've tried to instil in all trainees that it can be done - I did it, training works, and as long as they, the trainee, want it to work - it will.

As we begin the new millennium, we are in a sustained period of rapid technological, social and economic change. These all have a major impact on how quality training should be delivered, when it should be delivered and who it should be delivered to. Everybody needs training. Certainly taking Information Technology into consideration, the business world still needs training, there are few businesses today that use IT effectively, even after nearly thirty years of it, and there will be even less as the new standards take effect and we pump out a multitude of less than-competent people into the business world.

Above all, Information Technology is about training. In recent years a revolution has been taking place in the training sector - training actually worked. At the centre of this revolution has been the growing awareness by business that the best way forward to ensure commercial success is to invest in an effective workforce and to maximise that investment by developing the skills and potential of every member of their staff.

This revolution would not have been possible without a new way of looking at the skills of individuals. So, through listening, planning and innovation on the part of industry, education and commerce, into this revolution came competence-based learning and training. My organisation subscribed to this new direction, though with little success as their training schedule was not motivated enough, I certainly used this new direction to my advantage, and for both, new directions surfaced, though the former now has financial ruin hanging over it because it did not face that future confidently.

The learning process does not sit well with most people. I've seen that from both sides. We all have our ups and downs, depending on pressure or even the time of day. As a trainer I expect progress to be slow initially, as most people struggle to put aside old ways of doing things. Others might even learn quickly for a time then taper off temporarily, they may even back-peddle. Whatever happens, I try to reassure them that it°¶s normal, try to convince them not to get discouraged °V if necessary, I get them to start all over again and pile on the encouragement. The opportunity has been handed to them and it's in their interest to take advantage of it - I did.

I developed a new maxim when I designed the Call Centre course - SMILE & ENJOY - the trainees who joined that course lived and breathed the maxim for 12 weeks and the quality evidence they produced from knowing nothing about computing was outstanding. So I believe that maxim stands for training attitudes as well - trainers as well as standard setters should take note! Obviously the standards committee want to take that attitude out of training - trainees will still feel it, after all, they will have less to do to prove their competence, but a lot of quality trainers will opt out of the training arena and look for greener fields and less work.

By using quality training as a tool and an opportunity, business, and individuals like myself are able to transform their lives. They need the determination and motivation to bring this about, they need NVQs that teach them something not trainers to carry them through certification for even longer periods of time. Above all, everyone, employed or unemployed, worker or Managing Director, education or training provider, all need training for a brighter and more knowledgable future. That training can be achieved in three to four months with quality training °V who needs twelve to eighteen months to achieve total competence? We achieve that after training.

The missing link in all the above is the strategy of the Awarding Bodies - they seem to think that with the advent of the new standards released this year, the onus for success is now completely in the training sector. This should not be so - because so much evidence for competence is now in the already pressured area of individual trainers, it will be open to abuse. It will be easier to get candidates through qualifications now that tutor observation is the deciding factor.
Awarding Bodies would do well to remember Brian Graham's words.

Information Technology training from committed organisations will provide his vision and without doubt, his future if the faceless decision makers butt out and leave it to us workers!

Mik Sykes
email : [email protected]

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