Training the trainer

AccTech’s training methods are all about bringing learning into the real world.

brainstorm Training the trainerBy Candice Jones – Copyright Brainstorm & AccTech Systems.
Photo credit: Suzanne Gell, Mariette Landman

One of the most important aspects of education, which many companies miss, is the need to understand exactly where the student comes from, believes Albri Woodward, training Manager at AccTech Systems.

Woodward’s division takes great pains to do this and then takes it a step further. The first step is to analyse the business environment the student is coming from or going to. This takes into account all the applications any given student will need to use on a daily basis.

“While what the student learns is generally dictated by the client, we like to know how our training can fit into the student’s everyday life at the office,” she says.

Woodward says this is an integral part of getting knowledge to the learner. Added to this, AccTech’s training academy will do a thorough assessment of a student’s newly acquired abilities after the course, which Woodward calls a “user competency assessment”.

“Our training approach is focused around the needs of the learner, with the client or higher company in mind. By assessing the learner’s needs, we can more accurately create a favourable learning environment. Not to mention place them at a learning level that will challenge, but not overtax them.”

No virtual classroom

To maintain focus on the level of the student and the environment in which that student will work, Woodward says AccTech uses an innovative approach. “What many training solutions are missing is the use of real world examples. Many of the solutions available are what I consider a glorified tour of an application. That has no practical value for a learner.”

“For example”, says Woodward, “a learner who has to log information by hand on hard copy on a daily basis in a particular position will be asked to bring those handwritten documents to class and we will show them how to recreate these documents and processes using, for example, spreadsheet technology.”

By doing this, the student will not only learn how to use the applications in the training environment, they will also learn how the application fits into their jobs.

This method of training has shown excellent results. “By training them in this way, students gain confidence. And the more confident students are, the more capable they become. The method also gives them the opportunity to grow into new challenges and creates new opportunities further down the line,” she states.

Teach the teacher

The company’s courses are carefully designed to build knowledge and understanding of various solutions and it all rides on the backbone of a tested teaching method. AccTech’s training solutions are also modular, so they can be mixed and matched to suit a client’s or student’s needs.

A good training method is also nothing without a good mentor, and AccTech sources not only experienced educators, but mentors experienced in the field they choose to teach. “Our instructors are subject matter experts in their fields. These are consultants who have spent many years working and understanding the technologies they will teach.”

Woodward says the trainers are in turn trained to train. “Being taught by instructors with experience as field experts and trainers gives learners a deeper understanding of how the applications can be utilised in a real world environment. With the full backing of well-developed instructors and a well placed learning method, AccTech guarantees that a learner will be in a position to apply any newly acquired knowledge immediately after the training.”

It’s not a numbers game

While 80% of the learners come out of AccTech’s technical customer base, the company still teaches who they can, when they can, with limitations.

The limitation is not in the learning, however, but rather in the way in which the groups are structured. Woodward says a priority for the division is to keep the classes limited to a maximum of eight students with similar skills.

With clients now approaching AccTech to work out training solutions for their staff – a job usually completed by an HR manager – it is clear the academy, with its hands-on, personal-service attitude, has become a success story.

ICT Skills shortage

Recent survey results show that SA is in dire need of well-trained and experienced ICT professionals – and soon. A survey conducted by ITWeb and the Johannesburg Centre for Software Engineering shows that by 2009 the South African ICT industry could be short as many as 70 000 workers. This figure equates to roughly a quarter of the current workforce.

While the country battles to find a solution for the crisis, AccTech training manager Albri Woodward says the focus of the industry’s efforts may need to be adjusted. “Not even quality training can alleviate the skills shortage. ICT skills should be introduced to students as early as at school level.”

Even though she believes school leavers should be equipped to deal with the basics of the ICT industry, she says that every morsel of training the industry can offer is a good idea. “We all have to do our part to create a good skills pool.”

AccTech’s approach to education in the ICT domain is different to that of other training providers. Woodward takes to heart the need for any learner to have a real world way to interact with the learning material. But it doesn’t start there.