Bite-sized is best

Published:  09 July, 2007

When it comes to engineering skills training for industry, short bursts of informal hands-on instruction, followed by an assessment is the most efficient method of teaching - say Technical Training Solutions.  This view has been supported by the results of the latest National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (Niace) annual survey on learning at work.

Niace polled 2076 workers in the UK were asked which of ten ways of learning were helpful in learning to do the job better. Technical Training Solutions says its underlying principal of 'Learning by Doing' was the favourite method and scored 82% across the age group of men and women, and for different social classes.  

Co-founder of Technical Training Solutions, Martin Smith says: "Learning by doing is an important cornerstone in all of our courses. It is important to recognise that skills training must be followed with practical assessments, as this is what employers actually want.” He continued: “Courses which have practical outcomes are also more enjoyable for the delegates attending them, since they are more enjoyable and engaging by their very nature – avoiding the long lectures and powerpoint presentations so often used on training courses today.”

This is not to say that purely practical is best. There has to be a degree of academic content in all engineering skills training to ensure that the delegate fully understands the reason for his or her actions. Getting the balance right between theory and practical is the crux of good training.

Alan Tuckett, director of NIACE said: “The survey raises important questions about the balance of our workforce skills policies. Firstly, there is powerful evidence in the survey that the British preference for less formal ways of learning remains deeply ingrained, and that Government should recognise this, by encouraging a culture of learning and reflective practice in workplaces, alongside its drive to secure an increasingly qualified workforce. This finding is reinforced by other data in the survey that suggests that workers feel more benefit from all kinds of learning when working in places where thinking about how to do the job well is encouraged and shared between workers.”

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) agrees that many learners enjoy bite-sized learning and that employers need training that fits in with the running of their business. Richard Wainer, the CBI"s leading policy adviser was recently quoted in The Guardian (May 2007) saying: “A lot of qualifications do not meet business needs. We are pushing for reform to make sure that more qualifications are both relevant and economically valuable. “

Smith told Plant & Works Engineering: “The survey confirms what our hundreds of blue-chip customer already know - keep it short, keep it focused, keep it relevant.  That’s the way to get the biggest bang for your training buck.” 

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