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Who trains your trainers?

150 150 Matthew Doig

A central activity of any modern organisation is training and development. It is only reasonable to expect that we invest time and money in ensuring our staff are up to the task in a rapidly evolving workplace. Whilst there are now a range of options available for undertaking this development work such as attendance on courses and distance training  delivered in a range of formats, this still only comprises a small percentage (sometimes estimated to be as low as 10%) of the actual training done in a workplace. In spite of all the developmental options out there, the bulk of learning that people experience in the workplace still comes about as a result of their own experiences on the job and through direct instruction from colleagues and supervisors.

The consequence of this is that the quality of workplace training will have a major impact on how well our staff really learn at work and the extent to which they are then able to apply this to their own duties. It is easy to assume that everyone is a natural trainer who can assume the role of developing others, but experience tells us that in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Some people do seem to have the gift and are naturally good trainers, but for many other people being an effective trainer presents a huge challenge. Organisations need to be confident of the ability of designated staff to provide the basic instruction and training so critical for people, particularly those who are new to a job.

In my time working within the Forest Industries I have seen companies face up to this challenge and accept the need to take steps to ensure that the people charged with providing workplace training are up to the task. So, how should we approach the task of selecting and developing our workplace trainers?

The first thing to be clear about is the actual training requirement that must be met. For day to day operational tasks, we need to ensure the person carrying out the training has the requisite skill, knowledge and experience in the area in which people require assistance.  As well as having the technical knowledge and experience, the person also needs to be reliable and have a positive attitude. These two things together are a great start but on their own do not necessarily guarantee that they are going to be good at training as well! In most cases, people like this will gain a lot from some kind of course aimed at helping them approach training in a systematic way which takes account of the needs of a range of potential learners. The next step is to source where this training can come from.

Traditionally, one option was a “Train the trainer” program which provided coverage of the fundamental principles of learning and how to apply them in the workplace. This constituted part of the original BSZ40198 Certificate IV in Workplace training and assessment course and enabled people to get recognition against nationally endorsed competency standards. The most current qualification related to training is the TAE40116 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment. This qualification is largely geared towards developing trainers to work in the TAFE and Registered Training Organisation area and its scale and topic coverage is well beyond what is required for a basic workplace trainer who is skilling up people against workplace standards.

Whilst there is no longer a “Train the trainer” course as such, within the TAE40116 Training Package, there are a number of skill sets which can assist organisations in developing their own trainers. Skill Sets consist of groupings of nationally recognised units of competency which can be used by industry to meet their own specific needs. In my next article, I will look at how these can be adapted and used by the Forest Industries as well as some other options which might be useful in nurturing our own trainers.