Trainers' Skills Development

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Facilitation PhotoOften people come to our courses looking for advice to transition into training after having done something else for a while.

Becoming a vocational educator, a trainer, a facilitator, a performance improvement professional is not going to happen overnight. It is a skill that is built over years.

To work in the vocational education and training sector there are some "compliance requirements" that can open a first important door to your future as trainer, but only a balanced combination of skills, knowledge, experience, and a lot of hard work to keep up with changes, will help you to succeed.

Firstly it's important to understand that being a trainer in vocational education is very different to be an orator or a motivational speaker.
Let's look at some basic skills you will require to become a good trainer or facilitator.

Choose a domain in which to train. You must be very thorough in the area of expertise you choose. Whether it is painting, quilting, athletics, robotics, physics, computers, accounting, leadership, team building, or interpersonal skills—it does not matter. You need to be good at what you do. Only then can you train others in that vocational area. You can't teach someone to do something you haven't done in vocational education!

Start small. Start by training a small group of people, ensure you understand your students expectations, prior knowledge, and motives to complete the training. As you begin to facilitate for different groups, you will experience how different facilitation skills are required for different groups.

Improve your facilitation skills. These skills are basic requirements to develop into a good facilitator.

  • Communication skills: Both verbal and non-verbal communication is essential to becoming an expert trainer. How do you say what you want to convey? How do you come across to others? What does your body language tell others about you? As a trainer, you need to be aware of these cues, and practice good communication skills.
  • Presentation skills: Using PowerPoint or other media to present content to an audience involves presentation skills. However, do not make the mistake of thinking that training is the same as having good presentation skills—they are related, but very different.
  • Public speaking skills: You must develop the ability to address an audience with confidence, and get your message across.
  • Interpersonal skills: Communicating with and relating to other people, understanding diverse points of view and cultures, learning to manage your emotions, having respect for all individuals, and possessing assertiveness as well as humility—these are some of the skills that will serve you very well as a facilitator.
  • Networking skills: Network with other professionals, in your area of expertise, or in training. It can open different avenues of opportunity.
  • Time management skills: You have only so much time to conduct your session meaningfully. Develop time management skills for not just managing time within the session, but learning to prioritize and manage the activities that go along with any training.
  • Instructional design skills: Instructional design teaches you how to include adult learning theories into the design of your contents.
  • Competency-based trainings: In Australia we use a vocational education system based on nationally recognised competencies included in endorsed Training Packages and Accredited Courses. You need to become familiar with understanding and interpreting these Training Packages to construct your curriculum.
  • Assessor skills: You will be required to assess your students against the requirements included in the Training Package your are using as benchmark, and make competency decisions.
  • Evaluation design skills: More and more, trainers are asked how the training is going to contribute to performance improvement outcomes. Learn the business language. Learn the basic data-analysis skills required to evaluate your training programs. This is critical if you are going to pursue a training career.
  • Technological skills: A lot of training happens online. Learn the technology related to creating computer-based training content, and what is needed to deliver online sessions.

Be open to negative feedback. Trainers begin with this big idea that they are going to facilitate a great session. In reality, the session may become challenging for various reasons, and things may not work out as you imagined. Be prepared to take negative feedback in a constructive manner, and move along. Your passion, optimism, and aspiration will help you develop along the way.
Learn organization skills. Training is an event, so just becoming a great trainer will not make your session successful. Learn what happens "backstage" for a training event. There is planning, scheduling, getting materials ready, booking the venue, and handling the logistics—each thing counts!

Understand your motivation for training. Is it for yourself, or your audience? Training is not about performing on stage in front of an audience. It is always related to the participants and their needs. Remember, you are not an orator; you are there to facilitate learning for a group of people. Are you filling a learning need for them, and creating a meaningful experience?
Be passionate. This is one of the most critical competencies that a trainer should possess. You have to be passionate about the subject as well as facilitating, and believe that you are helping someone develop. You need high levels of energy throughout the session to keep your audience engaged throughout. Your passion for what you do can carry you through the entire session.

Training can be fun, but it can also be very challenging. There are some minimum quality standards that you will have to meet if you want to work within the Australian Vocational Education and Training (VET) Quality Framework, those are the rules of the game for trainers. Learn those standards (Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015) and relevant compliance requirements.

I started working as trainer more than 20 years ago because I wanted to help people develop new skills and succeed in their goals. During the years my job had change the name, new technology has been adopted, and I have had the opportunity to work with people with different backgrounds and needs; but the reason why I still I love my job, is because every day I have a new opportunity to make a positive impact in individuals and organisations helping them to achieve their goals.

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