Shift towards competency teaching

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'There is a definite shift now towards competency training - that is, training them to do their job properly but not overtraining them beyond their needs. Competency training is more linked towards specific tasks,' says Helen Banner of Banner Duncan Associates, the City-based computer training and consultancy firm.

Banner Duncan runs software training courses at its Lothbury centre or at the clients' own premises, which can be tailored to suit individual requirements. Clients include the Bank of England, Mobil, BP, Coopers & Lybrand and Pearl Assurance.

'When someone instructs us to do a training project we first go in and identify the skills that are needed. It is not training for training's sake, but training to meet a need. The follow-up evaluation is also extremely important, not only to get feedback but to monitor the programme as a whole,' says Banner.

With Pearl Assurance, Banner Duncan has been organising a tailored training plan for personnel to dovetail into the company's implementation of a standardised IT desktop. An initial questionnaire-based process enabled the consultancy to identify the gap that existed in IT skills and identify the training needs. 'Awareness' sessions were then provided, involving the explanation and rationale behind the changes that were occurring and this also helped to put across the training programme.

'These sessions were successful on many levels, not least because they reinforced the company ethos of keeping open communication channels throughout the workforce,' say Banner Duncan's notes on the undertaking. Time spent identifying and explaining the IT needs, as well as following up with the evaluation, can be easily as much as the time spent on the actual technical training.

Banner Duncan also provides one-to-one training for senior executives in large companies, including merchant banks, marketing and distribution services and the Bank of England. 'In some ways they suffer the most when it comes to the need for IT training. One-to-one sessions give them the skills they need and also give them an awareness of what their juniors are having to do,' says Banner. One of the nice things about dealing with senior executives on a one-to-one basis, she says, is that you can build up a relationship with them which then makes evaluation easier.

The company is also working closely with the Institute of Public Relations on an industry-led initiative for IT training designed for the PR business. Courses have been developed to run from September as a result of a survey sent to 5,500 IPR members, asking them what they currently use and giving them the opportunity to specify what they would like to learn.

Another company that runs tailored IT training courses in a wide range of areas is In Tuition Computer Training, which last month launched a new range of courses for companies recruiting graduates in the summer. In Tuition described the initiative as 'a response to the lack of adequate IT training offered by universities and colleges, where skills learned do not often translate to a working office environment.'

In Tuition Computer Training is a City-based company founded in 1991, with a client base of over 200 blue chip companies such as Arthur Andersen, Saatchi & Saatchi, Dresdner KB and SBC Warburg. It also offers pre-training consultancy sessions to determine the level of training needs, and course participants are subsequently streamed according to experience and needs.

At the start of this year, In Tuition offered a range of modular, high-intensity IT training courses aimed specifically at financial dealers. The courses were developed following direct feedback from a total of 6,000 dealers trained by In Tuition in projects with organisations such as Dresdner KB and SBC Warburg.

'The large number of systems upgrades being carried out by City institutions makes IT training essential. Dealers are reluctant to spend too much time away from their desks, so traditional training can be either too long or inadequate. A dealer's objectives are to make deals and, therefore, money. We aim to help them benefit from all the weapons at their disposal,' says Graham Scrivener, In Tuition sales and marketing director. These courses are broken down into two-hour intensive modules and can be taken outside office hours so that delegates can attend only those courses relevant to their work.

Recent European reports have put the UK second only to Germany in IT adoption, yet the UK is below average in the European league of money devoted to IT training. There may be as much as 30% under-utilisation of advanced technology in the City, suggests a senior manager in the HR division of a major investment bank. A recent In Tuition survey revealed that 63% of City corporations have an Intranet in place, which the majority of staff are unable to use effectively.

'The market seems to be adopting a 'me too' attitude to IT. Many companies are snapping up new technologies and implementing Intranets and Extranets without considering the wider picture. What use is a top-notch IT infrastructure if most people are not made aware of its capability?' says Lee Hassan, chairman at In Tuition.

Here, too, emphasis is placed on the planning and co-ordination of a training project, as well as post-training support and evaluation. Every minute spent in the training room, the consultancy says, needs to be justified.

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