Trainer Utilisation – What does a good model look like?
April 27, 2015 3 Comments
I posted something on this topic a number of years ago, when there was a lot of discussion around the proposed changes to the TAFE award in Queensland, where trainers were supposed to only undertake face to face teaching duties for 21 hours a week, along with a host of other conditions, including non-contact time, professional development leave and the like. I thought however it was it was time to revisit this topic again as I have seen a number of discussions about what models of trainer utilisation and employment look like in both the VET and L&D sector.
Firstly some background when I was training in the corporate sector (non-VET) the busiest year I had amounted to training (actual face to face in a classroom training) for 190+ days of the year and over 3000 people. This averages out at about four days per week with the fifth day usually taken up with travel. Now admittedly there was not a lot of formal assessment outside of the training itself, that was part of these courses, they were mostly enterprise technology courses on how to use large enterprise systems. However I can tell you that by the end of that year I was tired and really needed to have my time off, but it was work that was needed to be done and clients were happy with the result. On the other side of coin, I have had public providers say that we would have to have a number of different trainers to deliver a program of courses over a time frame of a month, because their staff couldn’t/wouldn’t do that amount of amount of training, either at all, or only if they were paid overtime for everything over what was in the award, which would have made the delivery uneconomical for everyone. Now don’t get me wrong here I am saying that there shouldn’t be awards and that people should not be paid and paid fairly for the work that they do, however surely it seems to me that we need to really think about is what is reasonable utilisation and what does it look like when we need to balance it against the needs of the provider and business and in addition we need to consider the training/assessment work divided as well.
The training/assessment divide is an important one because for any number of reasons staff might be involved either, on a ad hoc or ongoing basis in doing more of one of these types of work during their week plus others. In previous providers I have had staff who spent most of their time doing assessment work, primarily because the participants were either undertaking RPL or distance learning or other kinds of self paced work and the need for face to face training days was simply not part of the programs there were involved with. I have had others who had a fairly even spread between the two and then of course those who spent most of their time doing face to face training, either because it wasn’t VET training or because that was their strength and we engaged others to undertake assessment work.
I guess what I am driving at here is should we expect that trainers and assessors are for the most part doing training and assessment type work (and professional development activities where necessary) pretty much all of the time that they are at work or is do we need to outline how much actually time trainers should be doing each of these activities, such as no more than 21 hours face to face in a week and what sort of organisational models support achieving the best outcomes for everyone. I tend to lean towards not defining the amount of time that staff should be doing each activity, if they need to be delivering training for 5 days in a row that is what they should be doing, if they need to be assessing that is what they should be doing and so on for other activities. Now some might say well what about time for research or training development or other such activities, if we don’t delineate how much time staff should be allowed to have to undertake these activities, all they will be doing is training and assessment.
I think for me one of the answers to questions such as this is What is the role? If someone is a trainer and assessor then surely the majority of their time should be taken up by those activities and other activities should work in around what are their main activities. Given that whether or not you are a public or non-public provider of any kind of training, be it accredited or not, the delivery of training and the associated assessment activities are what in the vast majority of cases produces the income stream that allows the provider to continue, should not this be the aspect that is given the priority in terms of staff utilisation. One of the solutions to this that has been adopted by a lot of providers both public and private now, is simply to utilise trainers and assessors on a contractual basis, and there is certainly value to be gained through these types of arrangements for everyone it seems. I have had plenty of interviews and discussions with trainers who love the flexibility of being able to work on this basis, particularly in the assessment space where they are paid an hourly or per assessment rate and can essentially sit on their couch in pyjamas marking assessments if that is what they want to do. That being said there are also advantages for everyone in the employee model, where staff can be assigned to other work like program development and similar activities when they are not undertaking training and assessment, but this then requires that the people who are hired as trainers have a range of skills wider than just delivery and assessment and the attitude to match those skills as well.
So if we start to look at what a good model might be, I don’t think that it is a model where there are lots of full-time trainers and assessors delivering a range of different courses and I think this counts whether it is in the VET or non-VET sector. Multi skilled people, who can train, assess, develop, sell, talk to organisations, manage other staff etc are becoming far more valuable, I think, when we think of full-time employees, as they can be utilised as needed within the organisation. Now of course to be able to this requires that the organisation itself is not so stratified and siloed that staff cannot be plugged into tasks and project teams where necessary or that the person in charge of the training development team actually talks with the person in charge of the training team and makes these things possible. All of that aside though I think the days of large groups of full-time trainers and assessors employed by any organisation public or not are at the very least on the way out if not long gone, particularly where those staff aren’t multi skilled across a range of areas. So that leaves us with alternatives, which we are seeing happening more and more across a wide range of industries, not just training, where administration, management and coordination are handled by permanent employees, while the delivery and assessment activities are done on a contractual basis, usually with a core group of training professionals. Where development of new resources and programs is either managed internally with project teams made up of internal and external resources or the whole development process is done externally and the provider is the customer and chief stakeholder. Now these arrangements tend to have the benefit to the provider of only needed to engage people as necessary and not having to unproductive time or having to find other activities for staff during slow spells, it seems to benefit the employee through their ability to pick and choose and allows them the flexibility to work when and where they want. Although I am more than happy to admit there for employees, there is or could be the problem of having enough work to pay the bills, particularly where their skills might be part of a saturated market.
So I would be really interested in two thing;
- What models different people use in the market place to manage their staff, particularly their training and assessment staff, and
- What people think the best model is.
Anyway that’s just my opinion.