How did you get here? How did you become a trainer?
August 11, 2015 1 Comment
So while reading through some LinkedIn posts this morning I came across a post on how trainers are recruited, what people looked for and the like. There was also a number of people who commented that they were having difficulty finding work in the Learning Sector, because they didn’t have enough experience, but they couldn’t find anywhere to get experience. One of the people who posted asked how people started their career in training or learning or whatever you want to call this space in which we work which prompted me to think about a couple of things. Firstly how I got started in this industry and secondly the differences for people trying to get into this industry today. So first off I thought I would share my story about how I got here and then look at how things are different today.
I started in the sales and motivational training arena many, many years ago with a large financial services and insurance brokerage and then moved through a range of HR/L&D roles all with differing levels of actual training delivery, across a range of employers and industries. A lot of it was contract work or startup work (before startups were all tech and cool). I work in cleaning, manufacturing and distribution, project management and IT. I had a couple of short stints with TAFE in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, while I was finishing up some university study and after having a break from working on a range of large projects including the Sydney Olympics. Once university was wrapped up and my head had got over the horror of the Olympics, I went on higher level degree work and teaching at university. After that I went back to training, mostly non-accredited, where I was training between 1500 and 3000 people a year and managing a team of trainers, and at the same time did an RTO initial registration and start-up with the organisation I was working with. I then moved into enterprise level L&D in government, managing accredited and non-accredited training across a range of teams. From there I moved to the same kind of roles in the not for profit and community services sector, though the connection with VET was much more pronounced. All throughout this though and even now I still train, in some roles there was a lot, in others not much, and now as with the last couple of jobs, I have the luxury of training pretty much only when I want to actually train.
I had no qualifications when I started, but to be completely fair and honest, pretty much no one did (I fear I am giving away my age here a bit as well) as the BSZ only came into being towards the end of the 90’s and I only got that after a long argument about how stupid it was that I could teach at Uni but not a TAFE (Yes, yes I know there is a difference). There was also way back then, less separation between L&D and HR, a lot more cross over of skills and way less specialisation, so it was much easier to move organisations or change roles. There was also less unemployment it seemed, but you know rose-colored glasses and all of that. So this all got me thinking about people trying to get into the adult post-secondary training/learning industry today and whether if I was starting out today a journey like mine would be possible or if the whole thing was far more complicated now. The other thing I got to thinking about is how I hire people today to be trainers or L&D people and what my hiring practices meant to people who were trying to get a start.
A number of people have commented that they have found it difficult to get work in the industry, because while they have relevant qualification they don’t have experience, primarily experience in training and assessment and these people have legitimately asked well how do I get experience if no one will hire me. This is I think particularly telling on the assessment side of the picture. The only place were VET assessments are done, are in the VET sector, so where else are you going to get experience except in the sector you are trying to break into. It is relatively easy to get experience in delivery of training or presentation skills, but experience in assessments is far more difficult to come by. I have occasionally done deals with people, mostly ex students or people otherwise connected with the organisation around giving them experience in assessment work and training delivery, but only in cases where the skill set they had, was one that was useful or where we needed someone to meet a particular niche need.
I don’t necessarily pay a lot of attention to qualifications though when I am looking to hire a new trainer. I have found over the years that unfortunately too often people who look good on paper unfortunately don’t stack up that well in the interview stage. As part of the interview process I always insist that someone who is going to be in a training role, even if it is only a small part of the role, delivers a 15 minute presentation on a topic of their own choosing, first up, before the formal interview process begins and I am always stunned by how many people who look good on paper fail at this step. Skills and attitude are way more important to me than qualifications, particularly TAE qualifications. I can get you up to speed and am more than happy to invest the time to get you through you TAE properly if you are good at delivery and have the right set of other skills and the right attitude. So what do I look for;
- Relevant, recent industry experience (if you have been a trainer for 10 years and haven’t had any real industry hands on experience in that time I am probably not going to hire you)
- Good front of room skills (you had better engage me in first 5 minutes of your presentation time)
- Great Communication skills
- A real willingness to work (don’t start asking me about how much time you spend in class vs how much assessment or things like that, because you will do the work that needs to be done, and if that means you spend a week or two doing nothing but delivering training that is how it will be)
- Some actual knowledge of the VET sector (if you don’t know the basics of how it works why are you even here)
- Qualifications (industry first and then Training)
And finally it will help if you know someone who I know or am aware of, because I am going to look at your LinkedIn profile (you had better have one) and if there is someone linking us in some way who I can ring and have a chat to about your skills then that will help a lot. I don’t really trust references that much unless I know them.
Now I can see the people who were talking about not having experience thinking well I am never going to get a job, but think about what I am interested in. I want you to have skills in the industry that you want to train in, good communication skills and a willingness to work and what sells me in the long run is your 15 minute presentation and whether you really are willing to work and trust me if you aren’t willing to work you won’t make you first 3 months.
Two things I say to people who want to be trainers or work in learning roles
- Figure out why you want to do this, what is it that drives you to be part of this profession
- Figure out what you are good at and just how good you are at it.
Why, because this profession isn’t for everyone, I have seen so many people over the years, come and go, struggle to find work, or be unhappy with their roles simply because they never figured these two things out.
Anyway that’s just my opinion.