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Practitioner competence; why it matters
How good a trainer are you after? Any self respecting commissioning manager will want the best that they can afford. This article outlines some of the criteria a commissioning manager will need to consider when undertaking a selection process.

When considering expertise it is worthwhile understanding the risk involved in undertaking the training. Perversely the risk is:

  • no change in behaviour as a result of the training
    because of poor design and or delivery, participants do not change their behaviour
  • a change in behaviour as a result of the training
    because of poor design and or delivery, participants change their behaviour but not in the desired manner

It has been mentioned in previous articles about the importance of thorough analysis and robust design and development. Securing the services of an expert practitioner can raise the level of participant (staff) achievement beyond the objectives specified in a requirement. And then there are the less than conducive materials and environments presented as a result of poor requirement specification or ignorance of learning and development practice. Members of TrainerBase have told me of them having to rescue a project because of poor learning design. A good practitioner can and will work miracles when things do not go to plan. But what constitutes a good practitioner?

Learning and development expertise
Learning and development is a maturing discipline with a raft of theories and research into how adults learn. A commissioning manager would be advised to seek a practitioner who has appropriate background knowledge and understanding of learning and development theory and practice. The advantage of this expertise will be the ability of a practitioner to transfer the knowledge under almost any environmental condition.

Subject matter expertise
From a commissioning managers point of view you will need to consider whether you want a specialist subject matter expert or a generalist? A practitioner with a good breadth of topic expertise can bring a fresh viewpoint to a project and broaden participant thinking. That said the practitioner may not have sufficient relevant knowledge and skill to fully engage with participants as someone with a greater depth of expertise. The advantage of subject matter expertise will often emerge within informal dialogue between practitioner and participants.

Sector understanding
What level of sector understanding are you looking for in a practitioner? Someone with a high level of understanding in your industry will speak the language of the sector but may also be limited in their outlook. If the requirement is to broaden the thinking of the participants, a practitioner with a wider sector portfolio may be more appropriate.

Practitioner experience
As mentioned in other articles there are zero barriers to entry and many a staff member has drifted into the ‘trainer’ type roll as a way of passing on their own procedural knowledge in order to delegate tasks to other staff. This activity does not make that staff member a trainer; it is merely evidence of delegation skills. What often happens for this staff member is a ‘change of career’ opportunity. This often combines with the enjoyment and fulfilment they got from ‘educating’ others and manifests itself in a desire to become a trainer. For many that opportunity has materialised in the form of redundancy and these former members of staff become freelance rookie trainers.

Rookie does not necessarily denote capability; it denotes time spent as a freelance practitioner. Some rookie trainers; made redundant from their previous employer, will gain experience as a freelancer contracting with their previous employer. A commissioning manager would be well advised to consider the potential risk of a new project and decide on whether there is any advantage to be had from using a rookie trainer or the security of a more experienced practitioner. The caveat to this statement is that 20 years working as a freelance practitioner can be viewed as:

  • 20 years of continually improving practice, development and experience or
  • one year of poor practice repeated 19 times

As mentioned in the previous article on Practitioner Accreditation and Qualification, TrainerBase has devised a competence framework which ‘evidences the application of knowledge’ of its members. As such an accredited member has been seen to be competent and can be recommended by TrainerBase. There is further information about this in the articles on the Standard and the Accreditation.

Contributor Profile

Peter Mayes

Peter Mayes.

Peter Mayes is the founder and editor of TrainerBase; dedicated to helping business and other organisations find trainers and trainers find business.

Contact details:
Tel 07970 746077

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Contributor: Peter J Mayes

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