Be proud of your trainers: but support trainers in rapidly changing times

support The European Union has released Guiding principles on professional development of trainers in vocational education and training (52 pages). The focus is on PD for in-company trainers, remembering that in-company trainers often work with apprentices and other recent school leavers. If 52 pages seems like too many, you could try the six page summary with the engaging title of EU, be proud of your trainers: supporting those who train for improving skills, employment and competitiveness. At least four groups of competences are considered important to a different extent for trainers in VET, including those who train in companies (Cedefop, 2013b):

1. Competences related to their specific technical domain, sector. Competences related to their specific technical domain, sector. There is no common approach to defining such competences; most examples imply that trainers possess a qualification in a specific field in which they train. Strong subjectspecific or vocational skills are usually one of the reasons why employees are assigned to train apprentices or other staff in a company. Knowing developments in the industry and sector is important for in-company trainer capacity to help companies to look forward, identify emerging needs and address future challenges;

2. Competences related to serving a company’s strategy and improving its competitiveness through training. Competences related to serving a company’s strategy and improving its competitiveness through training. Trainers should know very well their company’s core business, structure, activities, working methods, processes and strategies as well as its skills needs and gaps. It should be noted though that awareness of company strategy can mostly be acquired internally. More ways to develop company-related competences should be explored in the future;

3. Pedagogical/didactical competence Pedagogical/didactical competence (i.e., the function and work of a trainer and the theory and practical application of teaching and learning) , training-related competences. In most cases, trainers are expected to have a good command of pedagogy, including some proof of competence or relevant training, theory of learning and/or understand teaching and learning approaches. When training adults it is possibly more current to speak of Andragogical theory – about how adults learn Depending on their responsibilities, they can be expected to know how to design training programmes and courses and carry out training needs analysis. The continuing shift towards learning outcomes in training requires trainers to be aware of this approach and able to apply it in their work. Optionally, trainers can be expected to design or develop training materials.

Pedagogical competence also includes skills related to practical implementation of training: time planning, distribution of content, creating a positive and inclusive learning environment, observing and understanding group dynamics, group management, and selecting methods appropriate to specific learner abilities and needs, including special education needs. Assessment of learner progress and learning outcomes is growing in importance and is becoming an important part of trainers’ work. Trainers should be aware of summative and formative assessment methods, able to choose the most appropriate assessment methods for the training delivered and learning objectives, as well as provide feedback to learners on their progress and develop further learning;

4. Transversal competences that help trainers support the learning process Transversal competences that help trainers support the learning process (for example, social and interpersonal competences, conflict management, multicultural awareness, critical thinking skills, communication skills, ICT skills). This group of competences is not specific to the training role of trainers but cuts across various activities and tasks and can support completing such tasks more effectively. To face heterogeneous groups of learners, trainers need to have social and interpersonal competences, conflict management, understanding multiculturalism, critical thinking, and communication skills. Social competences were identified as the most important for a trainer to have (European Commission; Institute of Technology and Education, 2008).

Trainers should also be able to use ICT to support learning and engage in networking and communities of practice. Autonomy, responsibility and ability to work in teams and cooperate with other professionals are also among expected competences and skills. As agents of lifelong learning, trainers should possess self-reflection and an ability to identify their own strengths and weaknesses; ability to assess their own teaching; and responsibility for continuing professional development and further learning. The combination and level for each group of competences needed for trainers in specific settings (for example, an apprentice master or a trainer of employees) would differ as well as some sets being of greater concern to various stakeholders (for example, technical competence can be of higher importance for an employer while multicultural awareness or pedagogical skills can be considered more important by the State).

To expect that all categories of trainers should possess the same sets and levels of competences might present too much of challenge or even be unrealistic. Practice shows that this concern is addressed (Germany, Belgium). However, it might be worth looking at alternative ways to ensure availability of all competences, for example, through teamwork. Further research on the impact (effect) of trainers’ competences on learners’ and employees’ competences and skills and also on companies’ performance and productivity and innovation is also needed.


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