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External training providers and courses

External training providers and courses

If your staff need formal training (e.g. for work that requires a licence or certificate), but you don’t have the time or resources to offer the training yourself, you may consider using an external training provider.

External training should be run through a registered training organisation. Training is typically at the organisation’s premises in a classroom setting. You can also hire external training providers to conduct in-house training at your business, or offer your staff online training through an external organisation.

External training includes:

  • ‘open’ programs, where one or more of your staff attend training that has been advertised
  • ‘closed’ programs, where you commission training to be delivered specifically for your staff.

‘Closed’ programs can be customised to your specific needs and workflow, but usually require a minimum number of participants.

Recognition of prior learning (RPL)

RPL is a way to recognise staff skills and knowledge, regardless of whether they were attained through formal or on-the-job training. RPL can be used to achieve official qualifications. It benefits staff by improving their qualifications and boosting morale. It can also benefit your business by helping to keep good staff and improving your reputation by having a more qualified workforce.

Find out more about how recognition of prior learning may benefit you and your staff.

Staff development

External training offers opportunities for staff development. By developing your staff you can promote internally, which can also help you avoid a potentially expensive recruitment process.

Performance reviews provide an ideal opportunity to talk to your staff to find out what kind of training they are interested in or need to develop their career. They may be interested in developing skills in a new area, which can benefit your business by broadening your skills base. If you have staff who are ready to take on more responsibility, you may consider enrolling them in a leadership course.

You may also consider offering training and staff development through university degree programs. While this can be expensive, it can be an investment in good staff members who might otherwise look for a new job.

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CHOOSING AN EXTERNAL TRAINING PROVIDER

The benefits of external training providers are numerous, they handle the certification of their trainers, they organise the course materials and they liaise with participants throughout the process. But how do you know that you’ve chosen a good provider?
We’ve put together our top 5 tips below to help you pick a good external training provider for your organisation.

1. Check their track record
An external training provider’s track record is a good indicator of their compatibility with your business. Have they worked with an organisation like yours in the past? Contact that company and find out how the training went. You should also consider checking the credentials of their trainers; look for relevant experience and customer references. Any provider worth your time will understand why this information is important and will happily share it.

2. Check if they offer customised or off the shelf training
Off the shelf training has a bad reputation but if you need it to meet mandatory legal obligations then it makes sense that the training would not need to be customised. However, a provider that only offers off the shelf training packages might not be the best fit for your organisation. The best providers understand the need to offer both and are willing to customise training based on your requirements.

3. Check their financial history
This can be a sensitive issue but it is important to protect your company. By checking the financial history of an external training provider, you can ensure they won’t take your money and disappear. Before paying any money to a provider, you should ask about their financial situation and what will happen if their company is unable to provide the training.

4. Ask about support
Most training courses don’t end as soon as the instructor stops talking. You want there to be a period following the training where your staff receive regular support to ensure they have truly achieved the learning objectives. A good external training provider will have clearly defined support terms and offer add-on packages to ensure that your staff are comfortable after the training.

5. Check their training methods
People tend to learn very differently and a good external training provider will know and accommodate this. Ask a potential provider what their training methods are and see if they are using methods that are innovative and based on sound research. A good provider will be able to clearly explain their training methods and how they help achieve the desired learning objectives.

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CHOOSING AN EXTERNAL TRAINING PROVIDER

CHOOSING AN EXTERNAL TRAINING PROVIDER

1. Check their track record
An external training provider’s track record is a good indicator of their compatibility with your business. Have they worked with an organisation like yours in the past? Contact that company and find out how the training went. You should also consider checking the credentials of their trainers; look for relevant experience and customer references. Any provider worth your time will understand why this information is important and will happily share it.

2. Check if they offer customised or off the shelf training
Off the shelf training has a bad reputation but if you need it to meet mandatory legal obligations then it makes sense that the training would not need to be customised. However, a provider that only offers off the shelf training packages might not be the best fit for your organisation. The best providers understand the need to offer both and are willing to customise training based on your requirements.

3. Check their financial history
This can be a sensitive issue but it is important to protect your company. By checking the financial history of an external training provider, you can ensure they won’t take your money and disappear. Before paying any money to a provider, you should ask about their financial situation and what will happen if their company is unable to provide the training.

4. Ask about support
Most training courses don’t end as soon as the instructor stops talking. You want there to be a period following the training where your staff receive regular support to ensure they have truly achieved the learning objectives. A good external training provider will have clearly defined support terms and offer add-on packages to ensure that your staff are comfortable after the training.

5. Check their training methods
People tend to learn very differently and a good external training provider will know and accommodate this. Ask a potential provider what their training methods are and see if they are using methods that are innovative and based on sound research. A good provider will be able to clearly explain their training methods and how they help achieve the desired learning objectives.

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How can you evaluate external training providers?

How can you evaluate external training providers?

It’s reckoned that over 25% of the external training that companies provide for their staff fall far short of meeting their needs. So how can directors ensure it will work effectively and that it’s money well spent?

Not a cheap option

In a recent survey by Knowledgepool, more than 25% of employees questioned felt that the external training courses they had attended via work had little or no relevance to their job role. Many claimed to be none the wiser after sitting through them, meaning that the company’s cash was well and truly wasted.

Before you pay?

Many training courses aren’t cheap, and so you won’t want one of your employees to be amongst this worrying statistic. But you’ve a one in four chance that they will be. So is there any way to evaluate the effectiveness of a training provider both before and after you book places on one of their courses?

Ask your own staff

It sounds obvious, but don’t just send a member of staff on a course (unless you have to for, e.g., manual handling). Before you do, ask them about what they feel they need and show them any you have selected. If they feel the course is pitched too high, or low, for their level, request more detailed course content from the provider.

Tip 1. Following most training courses, attendees are invited to fill in feedback, or evaluation forms. There’s no reason why you can’t ask the provider to see a range of these comments – good and bad.

Tip 2. If they’re reluctant to release any (they can easily block out the names, address etc. to protect confidentiality) or provide you with a sample of recent reviews, there’s a reason for it and it’s unlikely to be a good one.

Business is booming

Following training, you should be able to measure its success using tangible indicators. For example, if the training was for Customer Service, you should be able to see for yourself how an employee is now interacting with customers. If it was on technical skills, e.g. IT, ask them to demonstrate something new that they learned about on their course.

Questioning your staff

Although your staff will probably give feedback to a course provider, it’s a good idea to have your own evaluation forms too. We’ve produced an example evaluation template that you can use as a basis for this exercise (see The next step).

What can you ask? You could ask staff questions such as: “How relevant was the training to your job role?”“What were the most and least useful parts of the training?” and “Will you be able to utilise your new skills?”

Tip 1. Ask for feedback promptly. The longer you leave it, the less reliable the results will be.

Tip 2. If you get negative feedback, query it with the provider. Don’t assume your employee approached the course with enthusiasm!

And finally. The Business Link website includes detailed information on how to evaluate training and has a free guide that you can download.