Vocational Education, Formal and Informal Learning, and Organisational Development

I wrote last week about the connection between L&D and VET and asked why L&D departments chose non-accredited training over accredited training even when the costs involved were much higher.  Two of the strongest comments that came through from the discussion were around the time it took to get people through an accredited program.  This was not necessarily a criticism of the system as it was well understood that the time it took was directly related to the robust nature of the Australian VET system.  The second comment was around the complexity and amount of paperwork which was involved in the system, particularly in relation to government-funded initiatives.

So I thought today I would look at how some of these issues can be addressed though a model of training delivery which incorporated, organisational learning and VET into the one picture.  This model has been utilised very successfully by a number of Enterprise RTO’s as well as by organisations utilising external RTO’s.  In order for this to work successfully there needs to be close collaboration between the RTO and the L&D department, which is why this tends to work so well within an enterprise environment, but as I have said with good collaboration it works equally well with an external provider.

The first idea behind this model is a simple one – L&D departments are going to run non-VET training for their staff.  The second idea is just as simple – it doesn’t matter where you learnt it as long as you can show that you are competent.  If we take these two ideas and combine them together into a model, this becomes a very powerful.  The organisation can deliver the training that it wants and needs for its staff and its staff can work their way through the system to end up with a Nationally Accredited Qualification if they want, or at the very least a set of Units of Competency.

So what is the model.  Below is an example of how the concept can work within a community services organisation.

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All staff at all levels of the organisation go through a standard general induction, the standard who we are and what we do style program.  Once that is completed each business unit then has a separate induction program specific to their own needs and training requirements.  A small number of Units of competency can be built in at this level, the completion of which along with the rest of the induction program can be linked to the probation periods and extensions.  Once the induction training is completed there will be a set of training programs that everyone in the organisation will be expected to undertake, from generic programs  like Fire safety and Workplace health and safety to more organisationally focussed program such as in this case, mental health awareness and strength based practice. Along side this training there will also be business unit specific training which is also required, a disability support worker for example would need behavioural awareness training, where as a senior manager might be put through a more rigorous financial accountability program.  There will then be a range of programs delivered by and for the organisation which are available to all members of staff, these might be things like communication skills, crisis intervention skills, computer skills, and a range of other programs.  Once staff have completed all of the mandatory programs (both generic and unit specific) they can then undertake any of the training available within any policy constraints put in place by the organisation.

So all that has happened here is that the organisation and any associated training providers have simply delivered the training that they would have normally needed to deliver.  However if the RTO (be it internal or external) has mapped all of the training being delivered and looked at the assessments and what gaps are needed to be filled in order to meet the requirements of training package, what has actually happened is that the staff member has progressed quite a long way towards a qualification.  Now they may need to do some additional assessment work, on the job training or skills observations by their managers and supervisors, but they will, if they wish and this system seems to work best if it is voluntary for any extensions over what is mandatory, have accumulated a group of Units of competency.  From here the staff member can sit down with the RTO, their manager and anyone else who may have relevant input look at the range of qualifications that the units they currently have could lead them to and what they need to do to achieve them.  What this means for the staff member is that they may be able to achieve a number of qualifications, rather than just one, by doing a much smaller amount of additional work.  This also provides both the organisation and the staff member with a little bit more flexibility in terms of talent and career development options as well.  Someone who is moving towards a management track can be encouraged to take more management based units to fill out their qualification, rather than practice based units which might be more applicable for a frontline worker.

There are a number of very useful things which happen within this system (particularly when any additional assessment or learning is made voluntary)

  • organisational training can remain the same, additional assessment are simply plugged in for those staff who wish accredited outcomes
  • staff with existing qualifications do not need to do additional assessment over and above what is organisationally required
  • provides flexibility in the talent management pipeline
  • allows staff flexibility in terms of qualifications and training
  • reduces the cost of delivery and the time off work costs associated with accredited training.

A more generic example of the model can be seen below.

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The adoption of a system such as this allows for all of the training both informal and formal that is undertaken by staff and delivered by the organisation to be utilised towards a qualification or set of units of competency.

My favourite L&D Books

I thought as a start to the year I would begin building a list of my favourite Learning and Development books, these are all books that I have read and would recommend highly.  If you have any other suggestions then feel free to let me know.

The business of learning – David Vance

The success case method – Robert O Brinkerhoff

High Impact Learning – Robert O Brinkerhoff

Ten Steps to a Learning Organisation – Kline and Saunders

Building the Learning Organisation – Marguardt

The Fifth Discipline – Senge

The Training Measurement Book – Bersin

The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning – Wick, Pollock and Jefferson

How to measure training results – Phillips and Stone

 

So as I said if you have any other books that you like let me know.  I intend to build this list over the year.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Interfaced Learning – The acquisition and disacquisition of skills and knowledge in the digital world

As some of you may have guessed from my recent posts the #lrn2024 concept has stuck a cord with the philosopher and futurist in me (for those of you who don’t know I am shall we say a Philosopher by trade) and got me thinking about a number of things.  In particular in the changes the way we learn (and I am becoming a little more careful about using this term now) and acquire skills and knowledge.  This is in part driven by the concept that it seems that there may be or may be developing what could a significant difference between what we would traditionally consider to be learning and shall we say the acquisition of a skill or piece of knowledge.  I would argue, and I may at some point, that more so than ever in the past (and I believe this will increase in the coming years) it is becoming possible for me to acquire a skill, in most cases quite rapidly, utilise that skill and then for want of a better word disaquire that skill just as rapidly.

An example of this is my recent renovations of our house, including things like sanding and polishing floors, tiling and cutting and installing trim for the ceiling.  If we take a look at cutting the ceiling trim it provides a great example.  We had done everything else in the bathroom and the last thing to do was the trim between the ceiling and wall, so I went, ‘how hard can it be’ and went and looked at the trim in the rest of the house and the old trim that had been removed and then made an attempt (with a couple of test pieces to make the appropriate cuts.  I failed.  Given this result it was off to the wonderful world of YouTube, where I learnt about mitre boxes and the like, then armed with the knowledge and a rapidly purchased mitre box, proceeded to with relative ease cut and install the trim.  With that task achieved and the likelihood of me needing to do it again in the near future, and the availability of YouTube, promptly disacquired that skill.  Now why do I say disacquire that skill rather than forget, well I haven’t totally forgotten it, could I do it again now without the help of YouTube, probably not, but my reacquisition time would be much less time.  This is also the reason I used the term acquire the skill rather than learn, because I would argue that at no point did I learn the skill cut trim using a mitre box.

Now lets juxtapose this against the more traditional way of learning, or acquiring skills, where one is shown or taught a skill by someone who already possesses that skill and then practices that skill, usually under the guidance again of someone who already possesses that skill, until they are recognised as being able to perform the skill independently.  It is important to note that I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong with this traditional method,  that its time has passed, or that it doesn’t and will not have a place in the learning environment.  I am suggesting however that this Interfaced Learning (where I acquire skills and knowledge rapidly through some kind of interface device and in most cases disaquire them almost as quickly) is not only upon us, but is something that will increase in usage and application and new technologies and out understanding of the brain and how we learn increases.

It is clear I think that if we look at the rise and usage of not only e-learning and mobile learning, but instructional videos on youtube and a range a n variety of apps from which we can pull information and knowledge when we require it that this concept of Interfaced Learning is already upon us.  Be it a desktop computer, a tablet, a mobile phone, or (and I would love to explore this idea more, and yes this is a shameless plug this lovely piece of tech should be available in Australia) things like Google Glass, we are already surrounded by these interfaces and we use them constantly to access information and to acquire skills and knowledge, which we then utilise and promptly disacquire because we no longer need to that skill, knowledge or piece of information.

In fact it seems to me that there are some fairly mundane examples of this where we have been utilising this process for quite a long period of time, even before the rise of e-learning.  Think of the shared drive or the web portal which holds policies and procedures for an organisation.  Organisations have actively discouraged the printing of documents from these location and actively encouraged staff to check the central repository to ensure the latest knowledge.  Effectively the organisation is saying, don’t learn this, simply access it when you need it and apply it, thus ensuring (hopefully) that everyone is always working with the latest and most correct information.  They are actively promoting the rapid acquisition and disacquisition of knowledge through a readily available interface.

The more I think about this subject the more it seems that moving forward this concept of only holding skills and knowledge is one that is increasing.  We talk a lot about just in time learning, rapid upskilling, knowledge sharing and the like, and most of these concepts are wrapped around the delivery of content through some interface device and in a lot of cases we are not expecting the person to have completely learnt and integrated the skill or knowledge, at least in the traditional sense, after they have access the information once, but we seem to expect them to behave, at least for a short period of time as if they do possess that skill of knowledge.  There also seems every reason to suspect that this interfaced learning process will increase and we will see more and more skills and knowledge delivered to us in this way.

So I would really love to hear any thoughts you might have on this.

Creating a High Impact Learning Culture

I dont want to be a trainer all my life!

Career progression in L&D in general and the Australian VET sector in particular

 

Over the past couple of weeks I have encounters a number of conversations or articles, one example of which is by the ever erudite Sukh Pabial, around how to get started or how to progress ones career in the world of L&D.  While I firmly believe that L&D really is the HR sweet spot, some of the comments and issues that have been raised about the L&D industry seem quite valid both from an international point of view and from an Australian perspective.  The question I have been asked a number of times recently has been, ‘How do I get started in training?’  My initial off the cuff response, at least to those people in Australia was to go out and get their Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, but recently I have realised that I was actually embedding quite a lot of assumptions in the statement I was making, mainly I think due to the fact that I have been involved much more heavily in the management of L&D and training in the last few years than the coal face shall we say.

This minor revelation came about when myself and a long time friend were talking about how we get involved in the industry and realised that both of us started outside the VET sector, delivering non nationally accredited training in fee for service providers and that neither of us when we started had a TAE qualification and worked for a number of years quite successfully without every needing it.  But now it seems that everyone in the training industry and beyond whether involved in the delivery and assessment of accredited training or not, expects that everyone will at a minimum have the TAE qualification.  But what about an HR person with a degree and a specialisation in Learning and Development, do they need to get the entry-level qualification on top of their other qualifications.  Definitely, if they want to deliver training, or and let’s be fair here, even work in the RTO/VET sector in Australia, but more and more it is simply expected that those involved in L&D in this country with have a TAE.  Now I am not intending to argue whether or not this is a good thing or the value of the qualification or anything like that, but and I come back to my revelation, getting the qualification is not by necessity the first thing you should do if you want to become involved in L&D, what you really need is experience.

Now I am not talking here of just experience in training and L&D or HR, I am talking about a wider workplace experience, that begins to develop your depth of knowledge about how organisations and the people within them think and work.  This was driven home to me recently when I was having a conversation with a younger person who was taking part in a TAE program and when she was asked what it was wanted to train and why she wanted to do the course, she responded by saying she didn’t know what she wanted to train, but she just really wanted to train and teach people and become part of the L&D/Training industry.  I mean I wish her the best but with a Cert IV TAE, a generalist business degree and almost no experience, I think it might be a very hard road for her.

But what about when you are already in the industry, most of us involved in L&D and the VET sector are very passionate about what we do, we do it because we love it, it is as they say ‘in our blood’, but and this is what really struck me about Sukh’s post was there is little or no career progression within organisations, be they dedicated training organisations or L&D units within businesses.  Unlike a lot of other career pathways, you don’t start in a junior role and slowly progress into more senior positions, for me like Sukh, all of my career progressions have been because I have moved roles from one organisation to another.  We tend it seems to hire trainers as trainers and don’t really offer them a pathway to anything else, except perhaps ‘Senior Trainer’ or the like.  So they train for as long as it excites them and then they either leave the profession or they look for other roles outside the organisation they are in.  The same goes for Admin people and Compliance people and the works, we seem to want to pigeon-hole people and once they are in their hole, that is what we continue to think of them as.  Then as an added ‘bonus’ in Australia you have the TAFE, Training providers, organisational divide, where it would be exceedingly rare for someone to be given a role in a TAFE that had not had experience in a TAFE, though in reality there is very little difference between running a TAFE, a large training organisation or an organisation L&D department.  And the same goes in other directions as well, most non TAFE people think TAFE folk are boring, conservative and not terribly innovative, TAFE people thin commercial providers are cowboys out for a buck and corporate L&D thinks itself aloof from everyone.

So I wonder whether we can have the kind of progression in the L&D world that we might see in other professions, I think the problem for us is that there are a lot choices available to people who want to be involved in this sector of the workforce, and a lot of different avenues for people to explore and often the higher you get up the food chain and the more experienced you get the less you end up doing the things that make you passionate about this life we call L&D.

Herding Cats – Capturing informal and social learning

Social and Informal Learning in taking off in leaps and bounds,

with significant number of courses and programs available for free via various MOOC’s or through providers of free online education the profile of this kind of learning has increased dramatically.  Add into this workplace learning, communities of practice, on demand e-learning, and corporate social media, just to name a few and you soon realise that Learning is happening all over the place.  And I have to say I think that is a fantastic thing, anything which encourages people to learn or makes it easier for them to learn is good for everyone.

However, with all of this learning going on, how do we as organisations know what it is our staff know and how can we be comfortable that they are actually capable of doing the things they have been learning and is it important that we know.

Let me answer the second half of that question first, Yes, it is important that organisations know what their staff are learning, what their skills and capabilities are, what they are competent and not competent to do.  Why? because without that knowledge organisations cannot best plan for the future.  Without this information decisions about workforce needs and capability cannot be accurately made, nor can we properly succession plan for the organisations future.  It is hard to know who are going to be the next senior leaders with your organisation without knowing the knowledge, skills and capabilities.

The first half of the question if harder to answer however, how do organisations capture what it is that their staff know, what it is they have learnt over a year or six months, how does an organisation verify that learning and how can it be integrated into the work of the organisation and where the organisation is ‘providing’ the opportunities to learn, say through communities of practice etc, how do they determine the return on investment they are getting.

Even the simple act of capturing the information about staff learning can be challenging, do you try and capture everything, do you have a system where staff upload what they think is relevant information about their learning activities, does the organisation try and vet the information that is uploaded or captured to ensure that the learning activity was undertaken, or that if possible the person was deemed competent, or do you only accept formal qualifications as evidence of knowledge.  I guess for me it depends on the purposes for which you are looking to capture the information.  If it is being captured primarily so that staff have a record of their learning activities, both formal, non-formal and informal, which they can utilise to show industry currency or professional development, then I think casting a wide net, without too much checking of competence etc is fine.  If however the organisation is using the information as one string to its workforce planning or succession planning bow, or as looking to recognise formally the skills people have gained from informal sources, then I think the capture needs to be much stricter, perhaps even with competency based assessment backing up the learning from these informal avenues.

If you are in organisational learning I would love to hear what you think or what you do in terms of capturing what your staff learn informally.

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