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Emma Sue Prince



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Too many training providers, not enough business


Most of my consultancy work these days is in other countries, not the UK. Recent research from the Inquiry into the Future for Lifelong Learning (IFLL) would suggest that the market here is oversupplied and that there has been a growth in training providers but  that this is not matched by market demand. Large companies have cut their training budgets with many other companies turning to online and informal learning methods to deliver their learning solutions. For many organisations, blending delivery methods makes for an effective recipe, such as online learning as a prerequisite to live or virtual classroom learning, followed by coaching and online discussion forums for support.

So where does that leave freelance trainers or small businesses that offer training (bearing in mind that these make up the vast majority of training providers)? Sometimes I am surprised at how UK-centric Training Zone appears to be (of course I might be wrong!) with most discussions focusing on the UK and on Western methodology. Yet there is a massive demand for skills and learning in countries like India, Bangladesh and Tanzania and I'm only naming the ones I have first-hand experience of...

What's more these places need and want UK expertise. The needs are in vocational training, employability, English language and soft skills but also in HR and many other areas where so many businesses here can contribute. Soft skills, for example, are a core part of most trainers' work, yet this is still a largely unregulated industry. Demand for soft skills (an umbrella term, I know!) is soaring - from Malaysia to Madrid, the UK to the USA, China to Canada, soft skills are desperately sought. Governments are investing in employability schemes (of which soft skills are always a key component) and individuals invest in this area of personal development, perhaps because they know that it is these skills which will ultimately give them the competitive edge in this crazy climate of economic uncertainty, fierce competition and rapid change.

So I've been thinking: what about some collaboration between UK training providers and freelancers? Could we not tackle some of this demand together? What are your thoughts? For example, one of the projects I have only just started working on (and it's all very new) is supporting ngo's and large funders like Department of International Development to start bringing introducing soft skills programmes in Bangladesh to help build the creative industries. The good news is that there is funding out there for this kind of work. Ironically, there is now a massive shift from training being paid for by private companies and now being funded, in emerging economies anyway, by these large public organisations.

9 Responses

  1. Great idea!

    As a freelance language and communication trainer, I wholeheartedly agree with your post, Emma Sue.

    The nature of the training ecosystem as it is leaves a disconnect between a diverse and highly trained cohort of freelancers and the training providers who deliver their clients' training needs. Often working with overseas clients gives us the opportunity to make a significant contribution to their business and employees, as well a chance to develop our own skills by adapting to needs that we wouldn't have encountered in a UK environment. A more structured approach to these needs would be really useful.

    Great idea, keep us posted! 

  2. Tell me more

    Emma Sue, 

    I'm not sure where you are coming from or going to with this article; sure we should be sharing our experience globally – ''blending delivery methods makes for an effective recipe, such as online learning as a prerequisite to live or virtual classroom learning, followed by coaching and online discussion forums for support…''

    This works – it works well and fits with a 21st century approach. Let's fast-forward our friends abroad and coach them to quickly learn how to learn (from us)…count me in.



  3. Lots of opportunities

    I am aware that there are now new opportunities in these emerging markets. I am fortunate enough to be working in partnership with other funded organisations like DfID (Department of International Development) and British Council and the opportunities come from government initiatives that drive funding for employability and soft skills. India, Bangladesh, Malaysia and many other countries thrive on these kinds of initiatives and there is a massive need to skill up the labour markets there. Plus drive and energy that is incredible to see.

    I've noticed more and more that there is a big shift in terms of getting privately funded training work and that there are large-scale projects out there which need UK expertise and collaboration. I'm interested in getting a consortium together of training providers and other organisations with different skill sets and expertise so that we can collectively tap into these markets and share what we do. It's also a great way to make a difference in the global economy.

  4. Interesting!

    Hi Emma Sue

    I work all over the Middle East and Africa, and I find too that overseas companies want UK trainers.

    Unfortunately, I also agree that there is an oversupply of training in the UK. An oversupply of 'off the shelf' training.

    I'd be interested in exploring government funded projects with you. Always interested in meeting overseas UK trainers.

    Lets make contact


  5. Agree there is an over supply

    of "off the shelf" training" as well as training of varying quality. It's important to have training providers who are experienced, qualified and who really care about what they do and also able to see that we all need to look more "outwards" – these markets really need quality trainers. They don't always get them though and succumb to likewise 'off the shelf" Dale Carnegie type solutions…. (an example only)


    Matt – you can find me on Linked In and we can set up  a call,


    Emma Sue

  6. Too Many Training Providers

    Hi Emma Sue, I agree with many of the points that you make. Over the past 15 years despite being based in the UK, the majority of my work has come from Middle East, Asia, and Africa. I believe that British education has huge respect and that those of us with wide ranging sector/country experience have an opportunity and the responsibility to make a contribution to sustainable strategic solutions. In fact I believe that it was my experience and the opportunity that it brought from developing countries that helped my business to survive through recession.

    Over the past 18 months I have noticed a slight shift from what I call sheep dip training in the UK and Europe to requests for very specific competency based training design in flexible formats and while the design side of my business has grown due to demand for bespoke work I do wish that more training purchasers would operate and identify development needs in this way rather than use a same as before model of providing training.

    I am certainly interested in collaboration and thank you for raising this. Please let me know how I can contact you to explore possibilities



  7. good idea

    Like the sound of this concept. Have sent you a meeting invite via lInkedIn



  8. Trainer skills

    Hi Emma.

    I'm interested in this discussion from the perspective of trainer skills. What specific accredited skills and experience do other countries want, in unregulated arenas?

    We provide skills-based commercially sensitive development across over 20 disciplines in L&D for practitioners and whilst many might only be aware of the CIPD, our services complement their perhaps more academic approach to trainer development. 

    Do you think there are significant opportunities for the development of trainers in these countries (bearing in mind we have experience of running our programmes in over 30 countries to date) in facilitation; design; blended and eLearning; L&D Consultancy and Management skills?

    I guess I'd see an opportunity to help them develop their own professionals in-house as it were, along the lines of the old saying 'team a man to fish….'

    Interested in your thoughts.




  9. Interesting….

    Interesting coments…

    I train Clinical Systems in the Uk, as well as MS Office…  I have trained some soft skills in the past, before this became all consuming.

    What skills in particular are you looking for? 


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Emma Sue Prince


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