on February 20th, 2013

Dear Colleagues

I always get a bit twitchy when I write about negative topics – so please forgive me – but I will focus on the positives here. The big positive out of this blog is a humble set of suggestions on extracting every ounce of value out of your training dollars – whether it be you or your company paying.

Some suggestions are as follows:

Investigate the training course thoroughly before commencement. This means that you need to look at the training company’s previous presentations and the specific instructor’s capabilities. You could find the instructor to be a derelict that has never presented this course before (and perhaps doesn’t know much about the subject area). Ensure you have total buy-in and commitment from the course participants to benefit from the course.

Plan for the Training with your colleagues. Ensure that everyone is aware of the training, is able to attend and you have the appropriate process plant, substations and appropriate engineering workshops available to provide a real hands-on experience. Some years back, on a course where I fronted up to provide to a very large blue power utility there were initially no students – no one had been told about the training. The company managers then had to go around press ganging (in many cases) unwilling students to attend.

Ensure the training is beneficial and required. Seemingly pretty obvious. Often the training provided by an external instructor has no relevance to the participants who are often working in a different area.

Ensure there is no content overload. Due to work pressures these days, we always try and compress as much as possible into a short time in a course. However, it is best to ensure the students leave with useful skills and know-how rather than be inundated with a thousand and one concepts which they can’t grasp or apply in the limited time available.

Drive synergy. Ensure the training is directly beneficial in every participant’s job.

Hands-on and Practical. Try and ensure the participants practise their new skills and knowledge in the training course rather than subject them to a few days of lectures. No one learns anything from lectures. Although the universities would probably contradict this assertion of mine.

Ensure the Training is Grounded. Down to earth, practical and applicable in the student’s job training is absolutely vital. Not esoteric, theoretical and difficult to see as a connection to the job.

Measure the results after the training. Test to confirm the participants have gained new knowledge and skills. Preferably not in a formal examination but with hands-on assignments and practical sessions where you test real knowledge and skills. Where you can correct and guide the students. And then confirm that the skills do result in a measurable improvement in the on-the-job work.

Complement the formal training course with informal training. Informal training on-the-job should be built into to reinforce the formal training course. Ensure your experienced managers, supervisors and engineering professionals are able to coach and train informally on the shop floor.

Bill Cosby rightly reckons (and this is very relevant to selecting a training course): I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.

Yours in engineering learning


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