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Many young people aspire to become trainers, whether it be in-house (with a large company) or with a specialised training solutions provider, such as Avocado Vision.
Unfortunately, there is no clear pathway to a career in training – such as a specific course or training programme – so many bright young graduates, established professionals or other career-seekers have little idea of where to start.
To provide some guidance, here are a few basic pointers to get you on track for a long and rewarding career as a trainer.
Education first – While there is no particular degree or qualification required, most trainers have a strong background in teaching or education.
So it would be wise to pursue a degree in this field, such as a BA in education or a recognised teaching diploma.
Alternatively, studies in human resources, psychology, marketing and communications will also stand graduates in good stead.
The Education, Training and Development Practices sector education and training authority (ETDP Seta) also provides trainer, assessor and moderator training and qualification programmes that allow trainers to become qualified ETDP practitioners.
In addition, if you have a specific interest that you would one day like to focus on in your training, such as IT or sales, getting experience in this field would help.
This may come later in your career, however, so don’t worry if you don’t specialise right away.
Get professional experience – Once you have acquired a degree or diploma, the next step is to start getting work experience in the real world.
Again, many trainers start out as schoolteachers or educators as it provides valuable exposure to group dynamics and learning methodology, and one quickly learns how best to work with groups and interact with students. This is a wonderful way to ease into adult education.
Another route you can take is to work within the business/corporate environment in an HR, marketing, sales or communications-related position.
This will enable you to learn about organisational culture, business operations and much more, providing great preparation for the demands of a career in training.
With previous experience in the corporate sphere, trainers can approach challenges with added insight, compassion and understanding.
Attitude is everything – While training is a career that is within everyone’s grasp, it requires a specific attitude and approach to work that has to be consciously cultivated.
While you don’t necessarily have to be a “people person”, it is important that you learn to connect well and engage with others.
Ideally, aspiring trainers should enjoy interacting with others, and should develop the ability to empathise with students and place their needs above one’s own.
Essentially, being a great trainer requires the capacity to think from the group’s perspective, and to find ways to maximise the learning experience. And as with any successful leader, one must be able to walk the talk.
Prepare to be challenged – As with any career, there are a number of unique challenges that aspiring trainers will encounter.
First, when the economy hits a bumpy patch companies immediately cut back on training budgets – so one must be prepared for slower periods.
That said, almost every large corporate will require some form of training and development – whether it be in-house or in partnership with a provider – so there will always be a need for training services.
Second, organisations often have outdated views or expectations of what training providers should deliver, and it is often the trainer’s task to manage these expectations and educate clients on the process.
This requires trainers to be firm and confident with clients, while still being responsive and aware of their needs.
In addition, trainers are also faced with the challenges of working with a highly diverse population – with many stark differences in class, race, gender and generation.
Trainers should be aware of these differences, and must be able to tailor their presentations and messaging for each group.
Trainers should also be self-aware and conscious of any personal biases or stereotypical beliefs, so that these “personal prejudices” will not affect the learners in any way.
Finally, training has emerged as a popular career option, with many graduates and seasoned professionals joining the sector. While this should not dissuade aspiring trainers, you need to be prepared to work hard and to specialise at some point in your career.
Making a difference – With every challenge comes reward, and trainers have a great opportunity to be fulfilled by the work they do. In addition to empowering others to become more knowledgeable and skilled, trainers are also uniquely positioned to make the working lives of many people more enjoyable, and more meaningful.
And as every successful trainer will testify, as your students or learners grow on both personal and professional levels, so do the trainers themselves.
SA is in dire need of skills, and the adult education industry is going to be very busy for many years. So we encourage you to pursue your dreams of becoming a trainer – you can make an important difference to the lives of thousands of South Africans.
l Grant Newton is from Avocado Vision. Contact him at 011 614 0206. Visit www.avovision.co.za