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Training: The Qualifications That Count. By Annie Hayes

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qualifications
It is possible to drown in the number of qualifications available for trainers from market dominators including TAP and CIPD to the in-house train the trainer courses. So how can trainers ensure that the one they choose will put them in good stead, and can those that do the recruiting be sure that the badges of honour allow them to gauge levels of professionalism accurately? Annie Hayes reports.


Researching the different types of qualifications for trainers is rather like walking into a quagmire without your waders. There are so many types, levels and badges it is more than confusing and very easy to get stuck. What is apparent is that there are different ‘breeds’ those that are clearly aggressively marketed and top of their game and those that take the slowly-slowly approach, gaining credence through Chinese whispers and grapevine communications but still offer quality. And there are those that are externally qualified and those that issue a certificate of attendance with fancy titles from ‘master practitioners’. For the purposes of this report we will look at a selection of key players that are externally qualified.

According to Adrian Snook, deputy chief executive officer at The Training Foundation, the powerhouse behind The Trainer Assessment Programme (TAP), much of the confusion comes about through lack of a governing training body: “If you are in IT training it’s simple you go to the Institute of IT Training and gain a qualification, if you are in HR you go to the Chartered Institute of Professional Development.” Snook tells me that TAP offers a good solution.

TAP: Turning its back on academics
According to the website, TAP is: “A generic, objective training methodology which addresses the differing skills needs of professional trainers, subject matters experts and others supporting learning all within a single, consistent, competency-driven framework.”

So what does this mean? It includes an extensive programme of intensive certificated two to five day short-courses which can lead to diploma level. Certification requires successful assessment of role performance against the programme’s best-practice models. Recognised bodies including ABC, the Institute of IT Training and City and Guilds, award the certificates. The three top-level TAP awards are Diplomas in Learning Facilitation Skills, e-Learning Skills and Blended Learning. According to Snook, TAP differs from a lot of the qualifications on the market because it is inherently role-based and less academic.

“Learning and development roles typically fall into one of three tiers of a pyramid. The largest layer is composed of trainers that are involved in delivery of training courses. The middle layer is involved with facilitation and the smallest in training design. TAP offers options for all three – it tailors the learning to the individual’s career path. It differs from the Certificate In Training Practice (CTP) which covers the whole life-cycle of the training.”

One of its plus points is that it doesn’t operate in a vacuum, it recognises that other qualifications exist for the trainer – a professional with a diploma in CTP can be fast-tracked into TAP for example.

And TAP is finding its feet with more and more organisations requesting it as a must-have on job adverts. The 60 or so partners of TAP including the likes of Leeds City Council, Northgate hr and global training provider, Hemsley Fraser to name but a few will only employ TAP qualified trainers and are proud to say so publicly. More than 500 public sector units including NHS Trusts, local authorities, police forces and government departments employ TAP-certified trainers and for many TAP is a recommended standard.

TAP is also now used in 1,700 organisations and more than 12,000 learning and development practitioners have attended TAP courses and achieved externally-awarded certification of their skills.

But for many the CTP is still the qualification to have.

CTP: Why CIPD still plays a major part
CTP from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) is a modular method of studying and according to the professional body is “the most widely recognised qualification for those seeking success and credibility in the field of training and development.”

The programme leads to Associate membership of the CIPD and is a skills-based rather than an academic programme.

For Graham O’Connell, head of organisational learning and standards at the National School for Government the CTP is still the biggest and best known: “Our own research suggests it is the most asked for in job ads. However, most sensible employers will consider a suitable alternative qualification rather than fixating on just one.”

Member, Roger Warner is of the same opinion and says that the £2,000 money back guarantee offered by his training provider added to the appeal: “I would recommend the programme to any trainer who wants to get on in this profession, it is the industry standard whatever anyone says about TAP and CITOL, most employers want CIPD.”

Sophie Edward, TrainingZone members agrees: “CTP is the most relevant to the training profession.” For Edwards part of the appeal is that you can specify the course, whether you want flexible or part time study and, input your postcode to pull out the nearest training centre to you. For convenience she says it wins hands down. But with two years given to gain the qualification it requires patience and dedication.

Graham O’Connell says that CTP is definitely the CIPD qualification to go for if you work in training. Generally speaking, says O’Connell the colleges are the cheapest option but the standard of training, he admits, you get is mixed. “Some are pretty good and some less so. Ask about how much skills development you get as part of the programme – some teach you how to pass the qualification but don’t really equip you to be a good trainer. The biggest providers (CIPD, the National School of Government etc) are more expensive but you do tend to get what you pay for.”

Nikki Brun, TrainingZone member explains why she has found it useful in her dealings with HR: “I am a trainer and I have just done the whole CIPD thing having never worked in HR and never planning to. I have, however, found it incredibly useful for my dealing with HR departments. It has also given me a far better 3D view on how training fits into HR and how they see us. In the second year I got to specialise in training so it certainly wasn’t a waste of time or money for that matter.”

And Iain Young, an interim HR consultant and former head of HR for Cofathec Heatsave shares why CIPD is important for recruiters: “As a head of HR or HR director I would be looking for someone with CIPD if I was recruiting for my training department.”

But Snook says the CTP has existed largely unchanged in its current format for many years. And as an alternative to both CTP and TAP, The Institute of Training and Occupational Learning (ITOL) should not be ignored.

ITOL: Don’t forget the new kids on the block
Harry Bundred, director of the institute tells me the story: “Eighteen months ago we were concerned that training qualifications were a blunt instrument. Most were locking trainers into a single avenue.”

ITOL responded by devising a training qualifications framework. For the occasional trainer or instructor there is a certificate in staff development from there you move onto an equivalent level three certificate and once you’ve got to that point the institute assumes you are reasonably experienced and you are given options. If you want to stay in the training arena you are offered the advanced certificate and a diploma that enables you to specialise or branch into a freelance career. There are then two further qualifications for those that want to move into the management of learning including a diploma in learning and development management and an advanced diploma in learning and development.

Bundred explains how in his view ITOL differs from TAP: “TAP is a different animal. It’s a methodology of training, we offer a qualifications framework to match careers, it takes them further.”

Unlike TAP and the CIPD, ITOL have gone for a quieter marketing approach: “We’re still young but we’re rapidly becoming known. We’re not looking for a quick fix – we are concerned about raising qualifications in the profession.”

Angela Lockett, a TrainingZone member, commenting in the Any Answers board on the subject says: “Although ITOL have never marketed their qualifications as aggressively as the CIPD, they are focused purely on the learning and development professional’s requirements and have updated their whole qualification content since their recent link with The Learning Sanctuary.”

The future
There are of course many more qualifications on the market than those offered by TAP, ITOL and the CIPD – NVQs are an example, they could be considered part of trainer qualifications or separate.

Martyn Sloman of the CIPD says that whatever qualifications trainers choose they must take note that the training context has changed. “Training no longer equals instruction – it’s about delivering and creating an environment in which learning occurs. What you need to look at is how much impact those qualifications have. Take the plethora of Microsoft certificates for example, are they valued by organisations?”

The role of the trainer, says Sloman has become one of “supporting, accelerating and directing learning interventions that meet organisational needs and are appropriate to the learner and the context”. The requires a new mind-set and new skills from the trainer and the development of new partnerships across the organisation. And the qualifications that win the day will be the ones that take heed of these changes and adapt themselves to keep pace with them. The British Institute of Learning and Development (BILD) is a good example. They have recently created a dedicated membership structure/career path specifically for L&D professionals with a generalist focus.

And with £23 billion a year being spent in adult learning, the third largest spend per capita in Europe, it is crucial that the facilitators of this learning – trainers are gaining the right skills and qualifications to deliver first class learning experiences.

Snook says the irony is how few trainers actually find time to train themselves: "Like the cobbler’s children with no shoes, trainers often fail to plan for ongoing training and development." It’s a wonder, says Snook that more thought isn’t put into the qualifications of trainers. As he says: “You wouldn’t let someone with a vague notion of maths teach your child the discipline so why do we allow unqualified teaching in adult learning.”


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