2014 ATD (ASTD) State of the Industry Report

Well for those of us fascinated by L&D statistics and the meaning and implications behind them, ATD (Formerly ASTD) have just released their annual state of the industry report for 2014.  So what does it have to say and what implications can we draw from it.

So what did it cost?

Firstly we see that spending on training for organisations has gone up, not by much, around 1%, but still it has gone up to an average of $1208 per employee.  The interesting thing about this number is that it is much higher for smaller organisations (less than 500 staff) at $1,888 and much lower for large organisation (over 10,000 staff) at $838 per employee.  Much of this can be put down to larger organisation being able to take advantage of economies of scale when it comes to development, maintenance and delivery costs of training and have the same dollar spend spread over a large group of employees.

We see also that learning hours used is about 31.5 hours per employee across the board which is relatively the same as last few years.  An interesting wrinkle to this average is that medium size companies (500-9,999 employees)  only come in at about 27 learning hours used per employee and while this might be interesting to attempt to investigate further, it may simply have to do more with the relative size of the data samples then any other actual trend.  Again we also saw that direct expenditure on learning as a percentage of revenue again remained relatively stable at around 1.2%.  The vast majority of this spend is, as it has been for many years, made up by the internal costs to organisations for the delivery of training, remaining again in the mid 60% range.  With external services (27%) and tuition reimbursement (10%) making up the balance.

 

So what did we deliver and how?

The three content areas that made up more than 34% of all the training delivered were;

  1. Mandatory and Compliance Training
  2. Managerial and Supervisory
  3. Profession or Industry specific

with the bottom 3 areas being;

  1. Executive Development
  2. Interpersonal Skills and
  3. Basis Skills

As far as delivery methods for training goes the winner and continuing champion by a long margin is of course – Instructor Led Classroom Based.  Yes folks yet again, face to face classroom bases training got the gong for being the most frequently used delivery method at 54.6%.  Not a bad effort for the old-timer in my opinion.  To be fair to the up and coming, much-lauded new world of learning deliver self paced online learning came in second with 17.9% and the most important game changing learning and development technology mobile or m-learning came in with a massive 1.7%.  All right I apologies for being a little facetious there, but I think what these numbers show is something quite simply for all of the rhetoric about mobile learning being the most important development in L&D ever are simply well not stacking up at the moment at least. Even when we throw all of the technology based delivery methods together they still only account for about 38% with the balance being taken up by options like self based print based learning (which by itself and I find this incredibly interesting  accounts for 4.75% of delivery, three times higher than mobile learning).

So what is this all mean.  Well I think for the most part we as an industry should be happy with the results.  We are seeing consistency in spend and the kinds of training being delivered.  There seems to be no great surprises (well except for those who tout M-learning as the next big thing, ok I will stop now) and seems to be to be much what you would expect from a stable, mature industry that know what its goals are.

 

 

 

 

 

If not Industry Lead then what. Training packages, VET and the industry connection

With the VET reform process has come a lot of questions around the creation, development and management of the Training Packages which make up the VET system and there are currently two discussion papers released by the Department in relation to this.  Now even at this early point in the discussion there as been some robust discussion around the training packages, their content and their development.

When I start to think about this issue a couple of things come to mind for me, the first is, that I am not terribly interested in how the Training Packages were originally developed, they are what we have and the discussion should I thing focus on what is the best path forward from here.  I don’t think there is much appetite out there for the wholesale reinvention of training packages, but please correct me if I am wrong.

The other thing that sits heavy on my mind is this;

If not industry led, then what?

As most of you know I am a strong supporter of the VET system in this country and it capacity to increase workforce participation, provide a skilled workforce for the current and future needs of industry.  However the only way in which it can meet the needs of industry is if industry are the central to informing what the required skills and knowledge.  If we look at the first principle from which the reform process is being undertaken  namely;

The national system of qualifications must provide a reliable signal to employers about the skills an individual has, and must be underpinned by industry-defined occupational standards that:
• reflect the technical and generic skills and knowledge that are required in jobs;
• provide a basis for consistent assessment of competence in those skills
across the training system;
• provide a mechanism for the national portability of those skills; and
• are flexible enough to cater to the needs of different individuals, employers
and industries, including as these change over time.

A couple of really important things come out of this first principle for me and these are the ideas of providing a reliable indicator to employers about the skills of individuals, the technical and generic skills and knowledge required for Jobs and flexible enough to meet changing needs over time.

For me as I have always said, the VET system is about at its base vocational outcomes, it is about providing matching the skills and knowledge of students to the needs of the industries in which they are going to be employed and for me if the skills of the graduates do not map onto industry need and expectation then the system has failed.

The question that comes out of this for me is, if the system is related to vocational outcomes, the needs and expectations of industry, how can this be achieved without the strong, connected and engaged input from industry.  One of strong criticisms of the current system is that it struggles to keep up with changes in industry and employer  practices.  This along with an apparent mismatch (in a number of qualifications) between the skills and knowledge of graduates with the needs of employers and overly complex and bloated training packages shows what happens when is not as engaged and connected to the process of development as they could be.

So if at least part of our goal is to ensure that graduates of the VET system have meaningful employment outcomes from their qualification and that industry and employers get the skilled workforce that they need both now and in the future it seems to be absolutely necessary for industry to be a the leader in the development of what is required in the various units and qualifications that make up the training packages and that means that there needs to be more, better, consistent and real, actual engagement  and consultation between industry and whoever ends up developing the packages themselves.

The business of Learning – Setting a maximum retail price on VET training

As a lot of you are aware there has been a massive implosion in the Vocational Education System (at this point mostly confined to Victoria and previous market darling Vocation), but it has got me thinking about the business of vocational education again and how best to ensure that business and industry as well as participants and governments, get the best deal, the best bang for buck so to speak.

Now as anyone who has read my blog will know I am a firm believer in the system that currently operates in Australia, I believe there is a place and a necessary, place for both private and public education providers in the VET sector, I also believe that it is in the public good for Governments to make education as affordable and as accessible as possible for every member of our society.  This of course does not just mean the VET sector but across the entire educational landscape from preschool through to university and everything in between.  Education is good for this country.

Education of course has to be regulated, we have to ensure that our providers, both public and private are not simply becoming degree and diploma factories, churning out students without regard for quality of learning, or that what they are teaching has any relevance to the industries in which these graduates might hope to gain employment, we have to know that our electrician’s, support workers, nurses don’t just have a piece of paper  which says they are competent, but that they are actually competent and competent in the things that their respective industries need them to be competent in to work.

On top of this someone has to pay, and I have said this on a number of occasions previously, there is always a cost involved in education, which needs to be paid by someone, be that someone, the individual, business’s or industries, the government or someone else.  There is always going to be a cost.  There is a cost if we try to deliver VET sector training only through public educators like TAFE, there is a cost if we utilise private providers to enable the streamlining of the public system, There is always a cost.  As I said earlier I believe in the system we currently have, I think having a mix of private and public providers to meet the needs of participants and industry is important, it provides flexibility, innovation and if properly organised value for money.  I also think that given the public good of an educated populace it is difficult to see that user pays system is one that can be justifiably adopted.  One only has to look at the American experience to see the problems their tertiary system is encountering, rising levels of debt and the inability of a significant number of Americans to be able to afford to access the education they want and need are but two obvious ones.  It is also obvious though that the Government cannot be held responsible for the funding of every possible permutation of educational wants that people have, particularly in the VET sector.

Why do I say particularly in the VET sector, well the answer to that is pretty simple, it is in the title, vocational education is education that prepares people for specific trades, crafts and careers at various levels, this to me means, and always has, that there needs to be a vocational, employment outcome related to the education that is undertaken.  Now this should not be taken to mean that every person who undertakes a VET program should either be working, or be tied to a specific post study role, before they are allowed to undertake training.  It does however mean that we shouldn’t be providing funded places for people to do study, just for the sake of it, in areas where there is little or no likelihood of them gaining employment, the much spoken about situation from a few years back where there many many more people studying to be personal instructors than there were roles or one could suggest even need is one example.  Of course this only applies to funding, if you want to a course in underwater basket weaving you should be allowed to, you should just have to pay for it yourself.  And lets not even start to talk about VET FEE-Help and the outrageous prices being charged by some providers, both public and private for Diploma level courses, however when the dollar amount set by the government for direct funding for a diploma course is a quarter of what some of these institutions are charging there seems to be something wrong with the system.

Now I understand that there are financial viability issues across the board for both public and private providers however here is an idea about costs and pricing that just seems to make sense to me.  Why isn’t there a recommended or even maximum retail price set by the government for various programs, this price could then be used to set the direct funding that the government was willing to provide for that particular program, if any, but it would set the maximum price that institutions could charge for a program.  How would the price be set, well that is probably the tricky part, but it is something at governments currently do, they set the level of direct funding which they are willing to pay for particular courses, so by extension establishing a fair maximum price from there should not be exceedingly difficult.  The relationship between the funded price, where one existed and the maximum price would be representative of industry need, employment opportunities and other such factors.

This would not only stop what seems to be rampant profiteering in some areas but would also provide potential students with another indicator of how useful or not the qualification they were considering might be in getting them a vocational outcome.  for example;

  • If the cost of a Diploma of Counselling was set at $6,000, but the funding level was say $500 this would be an indicator that this was not a high priority course or that there were not strong employment outcomes from undertaking this course, however
  • If the cost of a Diploma of Disability was set at the same level ($6000) but the funding was say $5000 this would indicate that this was a much higher priority course with much stronger employment outcomes.

Now I know there are going to be people out there that say but you can’t do that, that is restricting the market, or that we provide a better service or a laptop or additional resources or whatever, and my answer is a simple one, so what.  A system like this would weed out, in particular, the VET FEE-HELP profiteers, it would allow students and employers to have a real idea about the potential outcomes of programs  and well maximum or even recommended retail prices are set all over the place on things and everybody else seems to survive, what are we as an industry any different.

Let me know what you think

Diploma’s or Certificate – Employments outcomes v Qualification level (The problems of Australia’s debt fuel Diploma industry)

Given a number of discussion I have had recently around Vocation training (VET) in Australia and in particular the rise of debt funded diploma industry I thought I might take a look at some actual figures and see whether or not getting a Diploma (AQF level 5) made any significant difference to employment options and outcomes, or whether it was the case that a lower AQF qualification, in particular level IV or III actually had the same or better outcomes in terms of employment.  So to the figures.

As most of you know NCVER is the place to go to look at statistics relating to the VET industry in Australia.  Now it is important to note that this data is around 12 months old, but still I think worth looking at now if only in the context of us then being able to comment on the new data when it comes out.

If we look at the student outcomes to total VET activity by key measures table it seems to be at least to my eyes beginning to tell us some interesting stories.  If we look at table 21 – Key findings for graduates by qualification firstly what do we see?

 

We see that the biggest proportional increase in employment before and after training at 8.9% is at the Certificate II level with the Certificate III (7.8%) and Certificate I (6.9%) not far behind.  The lowest performers (and significantly lower are Certificate IV and Diploma or above Qualifications at 1.6% and 1.7% respectively.

When we look at table 22 which represent module completer’s rather than graduates we see that the situation is even worse with what appears to be almost 1% fewer people employed out of those that started but did not complete a diploma level course again with the result better at a certificate III, II and I level.

And the trend continues when we look at Improved employment status after training for those employed before training,  at a certificate III and II level  21% of respondents were employed at a higher skill level while only 14% and 10 % for Diploma’s and Certificate IV’s.  Of those not employed before training 51% of Certificate III graduates were employed after the training as opposed to 43% at a Diploma level.

 

So what does this all mean?

Well and I am happy to take any challenges to this as I am now making some assumptions, what I think it shows is that if you are unemployed your best choice in terms of what training to undertake in order to maximise your ability to gain employment is to undertake a certificate III level qualification.  It also seems even if you are employed and you want to improve your employment outcomes a certificate III is still the better option.  This becomes even more relevant when we start to consider the relative costs of certificate III vs Diploma programs.  Certificate III, negligible cost to participant due to direct government funding arrangements versus up to $20,000 debt through government study assistance for a diploma.

It seems to me, and this has been my position for a long time, when we look at the vocational education system in this country and how it relates to that group of people who have for whatever reasons not gone on to tertiary education, it seems that the best approach is to undertake lower level courses (certificate II and III) courses to maximise the opportunity of gaining employment and then whilst employed access higher level training qualifications to improve overall job position.  This use of the system seems to be supported in general (particularly in QLD) by the structure of government funding, where Certificate III level qualifications are heavily subsidised for people without qualifications, yet higher level (IV and V) qualifications require participants to already be employed in the sector they wish to study in.  Also given that gaining a higher level qualification first, rules out the possibility of individuals or employers being able to fund lower level qualifications, it really does seem to me to be the case that you are far better off, starting at a lower level of qualification and working your way through the system, than starting higher up the ladder and hoping for an employment outcome.

Essential Skills – Learning in a digital, interfaced world

I have talked a number of times now about the concept of Interfaced Learning and as part of the discussions about this concept with a number of my greatly appreciated comment providers, one of the prime discussions has been around the concept of essential skills.  One of the reasons why I like thought experiments around the future of learning is that often they tend to give us quite deep insight into the issues facing us today.  So if we consider the world that I have posited on several occasions now, a world where skills and knowledge can for the most part simply plugged in, utilised and then discarded the concept of what basic skills would be essential for me to possess in order not only to be able to utilise technology like this but to utilise it well.  We can also place these ideas more firmly in the now by thinking about the learning through watching YouTube experience I have also mentioned previously, what skills did I need to have to be able to effectively utilise the skills I acquired through the process of interfaced learning.

Now if we take the example of undertaking some home renovation and picking up required skills along the way through watching YouTube.  It is clear that there are some obvious skills which are required in order to be able to do this, things such as;

  • manual dexterity
  • language and comprehension
  • numeracy and mathematics

But what else do we need, what other skills are essential to our ability to rapidly acquire and utilise new skills and knowledge.   What about skills (which are often thought of as being higher level skills) such as critical reasoning, the ability to evaluate options, the ability to extrapolate information (specific to general and general to specific).  We sometimes criticise the outcomes of learning programs without necessarily considering whether or not these higher level skills are present.  To give you an example I am currently working with a group of youths who are disengaged from the general school environment.  While for the most part they have quite good language, literacy and mathematics skills, one of the things I noticed they were missing very early on was the ability to take skills and knowledge from one environment and utilise them in another environment.  It was almost if they had to relearn skills that they actually had, but were unable to transfer to a new problem or task.  This meant that we actually had to spend a fair amount of time early on trying to teach them how to achieve this transference of information but in the long run it made the learning process much easier on them and us.

 

So I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts on  what you think the essential skills are that people need in order to be able to effectively learn.

 

Acquire – Utilise – Disacquire; The essence of Interfaced Learning

“The illiterates of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”- Alvin Toffler

 

I was reminded recently of Toffler’s quote by a reader of one of my previous posts  and it, as it had done previously struck a chord with me, both at an individual and organisational level, particularly given the subject matter that I have been toying with over the last few posts I have made, that of Interfaced Learning.  While I think Toffler is to a large extent right, what I think we are beginning to see, with more and more how to videos, learning snippets, user-created content, or as Ryan Tracey suggested to me, technologically enabled distributed learning is that his quote maybe does not go even far enough.

I say this because when we look at a definition of learning say  the act of acquiring new, or modifying and reinforcing, existing knowledge, behaviours, skills, values, or preferences and may involve synthesizing different types of information.  I would suggest as I have elsewhere that this is, at least in a significant number of cases not what is going on with a lot of Interfaced Learning.  What is in fact happening is we are acquiring a new skill or knowledge, utilising that skill or knowledge and then either actively or passively disacquiring it.  For me whether we are actually learning something, in a traditional sense of learning is really up for debate.  Of course Toffler may in fact have quite a loose definition of learning in mind when he says this which works quite nicely if that is the case, however I think, while probably inherent in the thinking behind the quote, it is the ability to utilise the skills and knowledge acquired that is particularly interesting, particularly for organisations.

This is because, as I have spoken about previously, there are a number of areas where organisations are even now actively encouraging staff not to retain certain types of information and to simply access them when necessary.  An example of this is policy and procedure documents, where, rather than have staff print out these documents or attempt to commit the information contained in them to memory, the organisation’s preference is for the staff member to check the document (held in some form of online repository) to ensure that they have the correct and most up to date information on had.  Inherent in this concept then is of course the idea that the staff member will disacquire the information (I hesitate to use the word unlearn here because I don’t think there is any intentional learning going on here simply the acquisition of information), so that when they have to undertake that task again they will again check the information repository.

In the same vein a significant number of employers are now providing their staff with just in time style learning snippets; small, task specific e-learning modules, delivered through a range of devices to the staff who can access them prior to undertaking a task to refresh their memory on how the task is supposed to be completed.  This process even in this form again encourages and reinforces the Acquire – Utilise – Disacquire mindset of Interfaced Learning.  It is true that at least in most cases the staff in question have already received more formal or traditional training in the task, however due to the infrequency of the task or other factors a quick refresher is useful in assisting them to complete the task successfully.  Let us think about it for a moment though.  How far away are we from not providing specific training in the task in question and simply providing generic skills training over which and interfaced Learning program can be layered to provide the specific skills need to achieve the task at hand at the time they are needed.

On of the complaints often raised against traditional training is that of retention of learning.  As we are all aware if a staff member attends a course or does an online program and then does not have cause to utilise the skills and knowledge they learnt then they will quickly forget them.  This of course then creates a range of situations when however many months down the track from their initial learning of the skill the staff member is called upon to use it.  Perhaps it may be more efficient and cost-effective to ensure that staff members have the underlying skills and knowledge to allow them to rapidly Acquire – Utilise – Disacquire skills through some form of Interfaced Learning, than to try to ensure that they retain the skills and knowledge over and extended period of time.

 

Rapid Skill Acquisition and Instant Evaluation – The Evaluation of Interfaced Learning

Ask yourself this, if we think about just in time learning, utilising YouTube or videos to impart skills to staff, or even just staff reading a policy or procedure through an online portal, what result do we want this?  How can we tell if this skill acquisition through some form of interfaced learning has been successful?  How can we evaluate skills or knowledge, which as I have discussed in another post  may be disacquired as rapidly as we have acquired them.  The more I think about evaluation the more I feel that our traditional models aren’t designed to cope with a world in which just in time, rapid skill acquisition is becoming more prevalent.

If I think about the example I have used previously of me acquiring the skill to use a mitre box to cut ceiling trim and install it, I think this provides where my think sits on this.  So the question is how to evaluate whether or not the ‘learning’ was successful?  Well what was my (or to be truthful my wife’s) success criteria,  it was quite simply install ceiling trim.  So if that was the success criteria, then it would seem that I was successful.  I know I was successful because my wife was happy with the result.  The real question here for me is how long did that evaluation process take, well in reality it was almost instantaneous.  I completed the task and then got my wife to come in and evaluate it as soon as I was finished.

Now you might say that is a very simply example and that evaluating the  success or failure of a learning program at an organisational level is much more complex than that and while I think that is at leas to some extend correct I think there are also a range of learning interventions where trying to do something other than what I have outlined above simply overcomplicates the matter.

Certainly there are tasks, skills and knowledge that we want our staff to have learnt and integrated so that they can perform them independently, and without additional learning when they need to.  However there are a range of tasks within any organisation where what we want from the learning process is that when the person needs to undertake the task, they simply access the relevant information, perform the task and then move on.  It is the Interfaced Learning process that I have described elsewhere, where we don’t actually expect that the staff member will retain skills or knowledge for any longer than it is necessary for them to complete the task (Acquire, Utilise, Disacquire).  In these cases I would suggest that the best time and in really the only time we should be evaluating the effectiveness of the learning should be at the time, that is directly after they have completed the task in question.

Sure we can accumulate all of this data, from all of the Interfaced Learning activities across the organisation and then begin to analyse what worked better, what was successful and what wasn’t, but the success of the actual instances themselves is something that should be determined as soon as possible after the completion of the task in question.

LearnKotch

L&D from a different perspective

C2C Consulting & Training blog

Learning & Organizational Development

Learning, Development and Training from an Organisation and Enterprise Perspective

South Metro Education Region VET Network

VET Information and Updates for the South Metro Region

North Metro VET Network

News and updates on all things VET in the North Metro Region

Learning

Leadership, Confidence, Success, Value

Learning Rebels

Fighting the Good Fight for More Engaging and Innovative Learning in the Workplace

Gen Y Girl

Twentysomething. Annoyed with corporate BS. Obsessed with Gen Y. Not bratty. Just opinionated.

VET Sector News from Velg Training

Australia's leading provider of Vocational Education and Training (VET) professional development and consulting services

Learning to Fly

Musings from an HR practitioner working things out as she goes along.

NIIT Managed Training Services

Helping Clients Run Training like a Business

Effective Intercultural Business

Learning from each other, leveraging the differences, doing better business.

It's time to tell a story...

Alex Holderness for Salient Group

Total Learning

Ideas on training and development for businesses

kotch2010

Just another WordPress.com site

E-Learning 24/7 Blog

The Truth and Realities of E-Learning

Thoughts on management

Management now and tomorrow

Saul Carliner

Linking to My Many Sites

E-Learning Provocateur

A blog by Ryan Tracey

Legal Resources for RTOs

VET Regulation under ASQA

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 277 other followers