Just because training might be about the workplace does not mean that it has to happen entirely at work. Likewise, just because it is training, doesn’t mean that it has to happen entirely in a room with fluorescent lights, desks, chairs and a data projector that never seems to work properly.
External learning activities can include:
- external courses
- off-the-job components of apprenticeship/traineeship
- equipment supplier training
- online learning
- conferences, seminars or workshops.
One or more of these components can be offered as part of a sequence of training activities, or may be a mandatory requirement to complete a course of study.
In this sort of situation, as trainers we need to make sure that we really understand what is needed for each group of learners, even if it is essentially the same material being delivered to the groups.
Think about it.
How many times have you known of someone who headed off to a training session, only for them to not be able to tell you what it was about or what it was for when they return?
In a corporate environment it is most effective if the external component of the training is directly relevant to the specific activities of the organisation. If possible, the training should contain examples and activities specific to that industry. This sort of contextualisation makes the training more immediately relevant to the learners and their organisation.
Participants should see the external component as a seamless transition between external and internal learning activities, and be reassured that the organisation has ownership or significant input to the course.
Consideration and analysis of the external component must be undertaken to ensure it offers the best possible course and covers the most appropriate topics. Participants will quickly become less motivated if they are asked to attend learning that does not contribute to the achievement of their goals.
Integration of External and Work-Based Learning
An example of this type of integration is the training offered by most apprenticeship and trainee schemes. An apprentice hairdresser must work part-time in a salon and attend TAFE part-time for up to three years in order to be fully qualified.
The training given on the job needs to be integrated with the studies at TAFE, so that the apprentices can practise at work the skills they are studying at the time at TAFE.
The course of study at TAFE also needs to be integrated with work-based practice, so that practical assessments can be conducted at the workplace rather than at TAFE.
However, just because it is most common in apprenticeship/traineeship situations does not make it any less relevant or worthwhile in other situations.
Let’s look at an example.
I was recently asked to deliver this TAE qualification to a new employee of another RTO. Let’s call him Jack. Jack needs to be able to deliver training on his own within 8 weeks. The RTO wanted to know their options. I gave it some thought and offered three options:
Option 1. fully-independent online learning, accessing all resources through our web-based resources, including my assistance. Jack could start straight away. Least expensive.
Option 2. blended delivery, involving a combination of face-to-face work-based training, with some independent work-based tasks and some online components. The curriculum and assessment would be negotiated to reflect the organisational context and skills that they require Jack to learn. Jack could start in a week, giving me time to plan the course in detail. Mid-ranking expense.
Option 3. fully face to face, involving 14 days of training. Jack could do this in August. Most expensive.
Which option did they choose?
Interestingly, they didn’t choose any of these options. The response I got was “You recommend what is best for us and we will do that.
I recommended Option 2. Based on my knowledge of the organisation and its employees, I concluded that training would be most effective if it was highly tailored to their particular needs, and if it was delivered within the work environment.
Strategies to Better Integrate Internal and External Learning
When an organisation enters into an agreement to use an external training provider to fulfil part or all of a learning pathway, a communication process must be established.
This will ensure that the following issues are clearly delineated as either the responsibility of the external provider or the organisation:
- feedback and help
- resources and materials
Representatives from both parties then need to analyse the learning pathway to determine the appropriate sequence of topics and delivery methods. For the above example, this meant that I had to map out a structure for the training based on the organisation’s own routines and practices; by doing this I was able to avoid clashes with work tasks, and was able to harness the potential for other work tasks to be included as part of the training context.
If the organisation undertakes the training, then a lot of these issues will already be addressed and an appropriate structure will be in place. However, communication is still important and larger organisations will usually appoint a liaison officer to deal with the relevant external provider on behalf of their trainees or apprentices.
Establish a Communication Process with the External Training Provider
In the above examples, we were looking at us having a relationship with an organisation that we were not part of. In that situation, it was ourselves that were external. Let’s look at what happens if we are managing the relationship with a provider of training outside of our own organisation.
If an organisation has an ongoing relationship with a training provider then a structure is necessary to ensure the relationship is efficient and effective.
Usually the organisation will select a representative to liaise with the representative from the RTO or provider, and together they will work closely to determine issues including:
- content of the learning pathway
- sequence of the units of study
- which units could be delivered internally
- which units have to be delivered externally, or by an external provider
- contractual arrangements RPL
- a communication process for participants – for example, use of email, fax or Internet assessment.