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How to: Begin your career as a trainer


One subject which crops up time and time again in the Any Answers section of the site is the question of how to begin a career as a trainer. We've brought together the best suggestions here, together with some additional research of our own, to provide an introductory resource for anyone looking to set out along this path. Thanks to the many members who've responded to others' requests for information on this topic over time.

Getting qualified

(Note: This article is intended for those wishing to become a trainer in either a corporate or adult learning (FE) organisation. Higher education institutions usually require a degree subject specialism plus an additional teaching qualification of their lecturers).

A good starting point for some structured guidance and support is to embark on a training course of your own. There are three main possibilities for obtaining a qualification which will be nationally recognised:

  • The CIPD's Certificate in Training Practice (CTP)

  • City and Guilds NVQ

  • Further and Adult Education Certificate (FAETC) parts one and two

  • Trainer Assessment Programme
  • CIPD Certificate in Training Practice

    The Certificate in Training Practice (CTP) is well-known and well-regarded as an excellent foundation for those embarking on a career in training. TZ members Jenny Kevan, Duncan Heyes, Karen McKay and Maryanne Fleming were among many who sung its praises when asked. Many commented that the course was hard work but rewarding and valuable. Fees for the course vary between different accredited providers, so it's worth shopping around. Offered by the CIPD, a first point of call for information is their website.

    National Vocational Qualifications

    An alternative route is to study for NVQ 3 in Training and Development, designed for the specialist trainer who trains in a variety of settings with a variety of individuals and groups, or Level 4 in Learning Development, designed for candidates who are normally employed in a full time training or teaching role with responsibility for training and learning programmes within all types of industry and educational establishments. It's worth noting that the Employment NTO, which oversees the standards for these qualifications, is currently in the process of revising them from the old Training and Development Lead Body (TDLB) definitions. Most of these will overlap, but some of the new standards will be different. What this does mean is that in future, the occupational standards will be available to be assessed through other methods than the NVQ. Contact your local college to find out where the nearest assessment centre is.

    If deciding between the Certificate in Training Practice and the NVQ route, the feeling among members is that CTP provides better networking opportunities, but that NVQ is more flexible. The NVQ route is likely to be more suitable to those with relevant training experience already.

    Further and Adult Education Certificate (FAETC)

    Awarded by City and Guilds (qualification no. 730), the FAETC is available at numerous centres around the country. Email them to find out where your nearest centre offering the course.

    Selina Martin says of the Further and Adult Education Certificate: "It focuses on practical teaching ideas, but also encourages reflection on teaching and learning. It's technically an NVQ but can be assessed in a number of ways. One or two members have commented that whilst they are qualified and experienced to teach in FE institutions, this has not necessarily been regarded as an asset when trying to move into a training role within a private company; FE staff are sometimes regarded as 'teachers' with an insufficient sense of practical business applications, rather than 'trainers', by people in the commercial sector.

    Trainer Assessment Programme

    The Certified Trainer Assessment Programm (TAP), run by the Training Foundation, comprises six externally awarded certifications each based on objective assessment models, in Training Delivery, Facilitation, Training Design & Development, Coaching, Learning Centre Support and Smart-help Skills. The Diploma in Learning Facilitation Skills may be awarded to training professionals evidencing all 21 competencies.

    More information on TAP, including a downloadable guide and testimonials, is available from the Training Foundation website.

    Other possible qualifications

    As the demand for IT training grows, moving into IT training is becoming a popular proposition.

    Carrol Rowe, an experienced IT trainer, suggests a number of options for those seeking to gain a specific qualification to train in IT subjects, including the NVQ route as described above and the Microsoft Certified Trainer route.

    Oxford Cambridge and RSA Examinations (OCR), who've taken over administration of the RSA awards, offer several possibilities, including Integrated Business Technology Stage 2, the Certificate in ICT for Teachers and Trainers and the Level 4 Diploma in ICT for Teachers and Trainers.
    Those who are considering training at the more technical end of the market, rather than end-users, will obviously need to ensure that their knowledge of technical programmes is thorough and constantly updated.

    For training in the workplace, Carrol says that the main requirements appear to be experience in the delivery of training to an audience (although potentially a chicken-and-egg situation) and good presentation skills, coupled with the necessary IT knowledge.

    Carrol says: "How I got into training at colleges is purely because I obtained a Masters Degree in Human Resource Development (nothing at all to do with IT) because before this they would not accept me even though I had over 10 years delivering IT training. The MSc seemed to make a difference." She adds that it's likely that the requirements are likely to have changed as the demand for delivering IT training has increased.

    The Institute for IT Training have their own training qualification for IT Trainers in the form of the Training Provider Accreditation Programme (TPAP). Email them for further information about accreditation.

    Train the trainer

    There are literally hundreds of suppliers of short courses aimed at trainers, either as an introductory or refresher session. It's impossible for to review these here, but it's likely that those wanting a thorough grounding in learning theory would be better suited taking up one of the routes to a qualification described above.
    The following is a very brief list of companies suggested by members for 'train the trainer' courses:

  • Corporate Learning ltd


  • Institute of Training and Occupational Learning

  • gbs-training
  • To qualify or not to qualify?

    Several members has suggested that taking the plunge and gaining some practical experience can be the best introduction to a training career. One or two others have also remarked that they've managed to build a successful freelance training business without any formal training qualifications.

    Both member Dee Keane and our Carol Rowe say the best way to start off is to contact your local Adult Education providers (usually via the Education Department of your local authority) and or local FE colleges. By getting paid work with them, you not only get training/teaching practice, but also access to accredited training/qualifications for yourself as an Adult Educator (e.g. City & Guilds FAETC). contributor Neil Wellman says "most colleges use lots of part timers and are usually keen to get good teachers (Aug/Sept is the time they get desperate), in fact it seems that starting off as a part-timer (even over several colleges) is a fairly normal way into FE." He adds that colleges can be happy to pay for FEATC courses, even for those working part-time.
    Franck Lynch says sitting in and helping out with an evening class can provide vital experience to secure your own teaching sessions in adult education. He also says that in his experience a teaching qualification and experience is perfectly acceptable, also that "It seemed that working in one Adult Education facility was acceptable to work in others." says: this method is likely to suit those who are looking to train in an area in which they have already developed an occupational specialism. Developing coaching, mentoring or presentation skills can be done while still working within an occupational area and can provide an excellent stepping off point for learning to impart knowledge to others. In a large organisation, there may well be opportunities to put these skills to use at internal briefings or workshops.


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