Training in Australia is everybody's responsibility

By Derek Stockley.

In this training article, Derek Stockley highlights some important current issues and trends in training in Australia.

In Australia, the training scene has become increasingly complex as the available training options expand to meet the growing and divergent needs of organisations.

For a start, the word "training" presents some difficulty, as it no longer covers the full range of learning and development activities that have evolved.

Traditionally, training was something done to you or by you to increase your knowledge, skills and abilities. When people talked about training, they pictured some form of classroom setting with a "trainer" working with a group of participants, or alternatively, someone receiving skills training "on-the-job" from an "instructor".

This vision has been significantly extended through the impact of new approaches such as e-learning.

People are searching for a word or phrase that better describes the techniques, methods and technology now available.

ASTD, which dropped its full title of American Society of Training and Development in 2000, now describes itself as an association of workplace learning and performance professionals.

Over the years, we have progressed from training to learning and development, in much the same way as "personnel" changed to "human resources" and now "human capital".

In Australia, we combine training with education in the VET sector. VET (Vocational Education Training) plays a major role in the provision of training to many parts of the workforce. VET includes the concept of education, which has often been interpreted as having a wider reach than training. Certainly education involves more than work or workforce related activities.

So when we talk about training, we are thinking of a broad range of learning and development activities that lead to better performance. As yet, we do not have one word that adequately describes a field that has grown and become increasingly diverse.

The growth in diversity provides more opportunities for training. As changes occur, we need to ensure that we have the right mindset.

If Australians are to take their place in the world, the providers of learning, education and training should agree to some common themes.

Training is not just about work. Yes it is an essential and key activity in the workplace, but learning and development applies to all aspects of human development. Lifelong learning should apply to all.

Importantly, everyone has a training role.

I saw an article recently that stated Australia had a workforce of some 10 million, 1.3 million businesses and over 4000 training providers. The writer was part of Australia's formal training system.

Although probably not intended, the statement falsely implied that the 4000 training providers have the responsibility for training.

Firstly, I would suggest that the 1.3 million businesses (and other organisations) have a responsibility for training. I would go even further. For the following reasons, I would argue that most of the 10 million individuals have a responsibility for training as well.

In the late 1980's and 1990's, when Australia restructured its workforce, many industries introduced a banded salary classification structure that recognised skills acquisition and use. In Victorian local government, I remember particularly that even the lowest banding, which typically covered basic manual skills, provided recognition for on-the-job training of fellow employees.

Part of our mindset should be that everyone is responsible for training, just as many are now seeing that safety is everyone's responsibility. We need to learn from the recent trends in the health and safety industry. Too much emphasis was placed on the responsibilities of employers and managers. Not enough emphasis was placed on employees to observe safe work practices. The emphasis now is on all three parties.

In the same way, training should be everyone's responsibility.

Technology has significantly expanded the learning delivery methods available.

To meet the changed and changing operating environment, organisations need to learn and adapt quickly. This means that training needs to be available easily and quickly. "Just-in-time" not only applies to manufacturing and quality processes - it has become a viable model for learning and training as well.

This means that a lot of learning is and can be in small chunks. Training is changing as a result of the need to be "just-in-time". E-learning has obviously helped, particularly when it is available to help with a problem, for example, how to use a specific feature of a word processing package.

Individuals are taking responsibility for their own learning. The numbers enrolled in formal study attests to this, although as a result of industry restructuring, it is often necessary to obtain qualifications before gaining employment.

Our organisations are leaner, and some would say, meaner. Many organisations expect employees to be fully trained before they are employed. The structural change that has occurred has brought this about - organisations claim they do not have the resources to invest in long-term skills development. Government in Australia is investing heavily in apprenticeship and traineeship support in order to reduce the looming skill shortages in some key industries.

Once employed, knowledge and skills need to be constantly updated. This can be done through structured courses and additional qualifications and/or unstructured methods. Both individuals and organisations can play their part.

A wealth of material is available to assist, particularly now the internet is so widely available. The number of visitors to my website is ample confirmation of the claim that the Google search engine is the most widely used e-learning tool in the world.

Organisations need to encourage self-help. The resources need to be available.

Skilled workers, at all levels, should be encouraged and equipped to pass on their knowledge and experience to others. These workers need to learn the appropriate techniques and methods to do this. This doesn't mean that everyone should undertake the Certificate IV in Assessment and Workplace Training. Some people only need basic "on-the-job" training techniques.

On the other hand, organisations need to ensure that their planning and human resources systems are monitoring the "big picture". This means effective performance management systems identifying individual development needs as well as systems providing organisation wide training where required, for example, with the introduction of new systems or ways of operating.

This means there is still a role for training professionals, or as ASTD describes them, workplace learning and performance professionals.

Extending on the learning theme, and drawing on the fashionable enabling term, I consider we will always need "learnabling" professionals and practitioners. There is now a wide body of theory and expertise that supports learning.

Individuals have responsibilities. Organisations have responsibilities. Training providers (formal, informal) have responsibilities. Management of these interrelationships is a complex task.

Copyright: Derek Stockley and Training Australia Magazine. All Rights Reserved.

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Further assistance

If you require training assistance, see: Training Courses and Services - provides details of a wide range of training courses and services available

To ensure a sound training investment, a TNA may be appropriate, see: Training Needs Analysis. Derek Stockley can organise an in-house, comprehensive TNA/trainer project, see In-house Training Needs Analysis Project.

If you require train the trainer (trainer development) assistance, see: Trainer Development Services - provides details of a wide range of courses for team leaders and trainers.

If you require performance management implementation or training assistance, see: Performance Management and Review - provides details of a wide range of performance review and management help available for small and large organisations, both public and private.

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