VOCATIONAL TRAINING IS NOT JUST FOR 'BLUE COLLAR' WORKERS
That vocational training
is only relevant to so-called blue collar workers is actually one of the biggest myths spread around by goodness knows
who for goodness knows what reason. It first emerged in the mid 1990s when the Australian National Training Authority decided
that the only way for academics and technical trainers to understand the National Training Framework was to give each level
of competence its own qualification name. I argued long and hard against this because the UK were getting by very nicely calling
them NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) but, no, some people (and you know who you are) just had to align themselves
with TAFE and that was it. And because Certificate qualifications covered a more technical approach to certain functions it
gradually became accepted that they must be only for so-called blue collar workers.
This is nonsense for two reasons:
a. While competency standards are not written for training purposes, learning outcomes and objectives can be derived
from such standards. (See also below.) Whenever competency standards are written they are developed around levels of work
that are conducted within any organisation. This means that when it comes to operating, say, a computer the level of competence
here is relatively low (in comparison to running a computer sales company). But the CEO of an organisation has to operate
a computer equally as competently as the front desk receptionist, so are we saying the CEO is a blue collar worker if he/she
has to gain training at certificate level? Of course not.
b. Vocational training is for anybody working
within a vocation or profession. A member of the clergy is following a vocation, so is a used car salesperson, a senior manager,
a grave digger, and an airline pilot. The term vocational training is used to differentiate between a workplace perspective
on education and training and an academic perspective.
Vocational training is for anybody and everybody in the
workplace. And while the qualification they gain by undertaking it might be a certificate or an advanced diploma - or even
if it is a business degree - this does not mean that there is only a certain perceived class of worker who can get one.
COMPETENCY STANDARDS ARE NOT WRITTEN FOR TRAINING
True! They're not. Competency standards are written as descriptions of the skills and knowledge
required for the competent performance of certain functions within the workplace. The general acceptance (as wrong
as this is) that they are written for training purposes has come about because in most countries trainers and academics
have hijacked the whole competency development processes.
Back in the 1980s, when the world started to
consider the training that workplace trainers required it was felt - quite rightly - that their job was to enhance
individual and team abilities to achieve work related goals and objectives. In designing a training course these became
training or learning objectives and the main problem was that they didn't always line up against what was required
in the workplace. In fact it was quite often the case that regardless of how well someone was trained they were still
not sufficiently competent at their job. Why? Because a training or learning objective is only one of many objectives
that must be achieved if someone is to be competent. There are other, higher order objectives that must also be achieved,
including workplace, environmental, client, business and strategic objectives. One of the main problems that trainers
had then - and many still have today - is how to translate these objectives into outcomes that learners could
achieve during their training.
The thing is that they can't. While not everyone accepts this, there are
many skills and knowledge needed for the achievement of these higher order objectives that people just can not be
trained in. These are the ones that can only be gained through experience or, as later Knowledge Management experts
now understand, through interacting with other staff and thereby generating new skills and knowledge. And the only
way these skills can be learned is by going out and doing them.
This is where the notion of learning how
to learn comes in. Learning, on the job, how to learn what is needed, on the job, to enhance one's skills and knowledge
on the job.
All of these together - the trainable and untrainable skills and knowledge - define what is
meant by competence in the workplace, but unfortunately because the latter cannot be part of a formal training program
(actually they can but not using traditional definitions - more on that later), and because the trainers took it on
themselves to adopt the competency development processes, they were not included. In fact they still aren't included
which is why so many countries are now suffering from what they call a skills shortage. There is no skills shortage
- only competence (at all levels) shortage, but more on that later too.
A trainer - whether he/she is internal
or from an external agency - has an important role in identifying and providing the skills and knowledge that individuals
and teams require in order to be better able to achieve all of the objectives their organisations pursue. So, even
though trainers are the de facto developers of competency standards they should be developing them for purposes that
are far wider than just training - principally because competence describes what is needed in the workplace (for recruitment,
succession planning, performance management, etc. issues), and there is only a limited part of competence that can
be trained for.