The cost versus the value of training
YoungMinds training and consultancy manager Roger Catchpole explains how to get value from training courses.
Last week I delivered two days training on emotional wellbeing and the early years in Belfast and I think it went really well. It was well planned, enjoyable and both groups were great to work with.
The training was commissioned jointly by the ‘Our Shared Vision’ project and the Eastern Childcare Partnership. There was a very clear brief to focus on the practical implications of theories of child development, the evidence from neuroscience and work on risk and resilience.
With 30 people attending each day from a variety of roles within early years it was quite a challenge, but feedback and evaluations suggest the courses were very well received. Over the two days managers and staff from several services attended so that whole teams could use the same ideas and work together to improve practice.
Work on these courses had begun with an initial contact six months earlier, in April. Because the commissioners knew what they wanted people to gain from the training and knew what previous training participants had received, we were able to work together to draft and redraft a programme that really addressed needs. We had several email exchanges and a conference call before we finally agreed a programme that would build on existing capacity.
The venue was excellent, there was the regular supply of coffee, tea and scones that only Northern Ireland offers and a good lunch was had by all. Both commissioners attended both days and greeted people on arrival as well as ensuring that everything went smoothly throughout the day. Their contribution to the success of the training was crucial and their presence and attention to detail sent a message that the participants and the topic were important.
My point here is that effective commissioning of training requires that level of involvement. With 60 people attending, the real cost of the courses was the time those people spent away from the workplace. By comparison the cost of the venue, refreshments and training fees was minimal. Because there was lots of prior discussion I was able to tailor the content, target the issues that really mattered to people and build on existing skills and knowledge, rather than duplicating things they had already covered elsewhere. If they left, as I think many did, with plans for ways of doing things differently then the courses were good value. The way the training was commissioned maximised the chances of bringing about that change in practice.
One participant said to the commissioner that they had done ‘lots of training on attachment but that was the best they had attended’. Much as I would like to claim credit as a great trainer I suspect that meant that we (commissioners and trainer working together) got the focus right and addressed real needs.
Quite often I get calls or emails asking what training we can provide. In itself that’s not a bad thing (so please don’t stop contacting us) but when I ask what learning needs are to be addressed, or even who the participants are to be, the response is often, shall we say, uncertain. There are pressures on commissioners to put together annual programmes and to tick appropriate boxes but I do wonder sometimes whether the narrow focus on cost (measured in terms of training fees) is at the expense of value (will people learn what they need to learn and will they be supported to change their practice after the event).
This is not a new gripe to anyone involved in training, but the current financial climate means that finding the funds to provide training is harder than ever and ensuring that they are well spent is essential. In that climate it surely makes sense to assess the value and not just the cost of what is commissioned. Making sure needs have been assessed, trainers have been adequately briefed, content and methods reviewed and agreed and a suitable venue with appropriate equipment is provided are necessary parts of the process if value is to be obtained.
On any training, but especially training about emotional wellbeing, attention to these issues sends the message that participants are valued and that commissioners recognise that the emotional wellbeing of learners is important if they are to learn and to promote the emotional wellbeing of parents and children.
Perhaps we should develop some training for commissioners on commissioning training. And perhaps I should ask Ashleigh Brown from the Eastern Childcare Partnership and Joanne Sweeney from ‘Our Shared Vision’ to deliver it with me. Thank you both for making it a meaningful and enjoyable trip to Northern Ireland.
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