Training: “Is it change for change sake”

What can western companies and training providers do to stay at the forefront of military style training? Here, Steve (Buzz) Burrows, Director of Quadrant 4 and former Training Delivery Manager and consultant at many global defence companies, argues that suppliers must stay abreast of new technology while also listening closely to the requirements of the end user.     

Having had experience as a British Army officer and experience as a contracted training provider to the UK MOD, I am aware that there has been a lot of change across the environment, certainly from a technology point of view.

In general, defence training tends to be moving from the stand up, old paper based classroom environment to incorporate things like computer-based training (CBT) and computer-aided instruction (CAI), as well as other types of eLearning. It is perhaps a preferred route by a lot of people because they see it as a different medium, where they can take out or reduce the instructor time out of the classroom. However, from a defence personnel perspective, the traditional classroom format of the trainer in front of them telling them what they have to learn is tried and tested, and I do not think it can ever be replaced entirely. A blended approach is very much the way forward.

Because CBT and eLearning are very much a support to training, it should be used perhaps as pre-course training/self-paced delivery, allowing the user to take what they have learned from a distance learning perspective into the classroom. By blending all of the learning strategies and elements together, you end up with a far more rounded and balanced training programme.  This also allows the learner to take control.

The range of most defence training programs are vast. From an outside provider’s point of view, the most important part of drawing up a training programme is looking at who you are delivering to. Delivering to a Maintainer is going to be very different than delivering training to a front-line soldier, so you should look closely at the target audience. What is that audience expected to get from the training? How are you expected to deliver that particular type of training to them?

You also have to look at the operational requirement; how is what you are trying to deliver to them going to meet that? Is there a training gap between what you are trying to teach and what they need to know? It is really about the training needs analysis that needs to be done. We look at the type of training, the training gap analysis, the operational requirement, as well as looking at what resources are available at the time for instruction.

As new technology comes into the fold, the defence industry has an important role to play, both from a learning technology point of view and from the new equipment point of view. Companies such as Quadrant 4 have an interface directly with a lot of the providers and are also up to date with new technologies. The customer may hear about a particular technology and may think it is a good idea, but from the front-end point of view where we stand, Quadrant 4 may think differently, so it is important to have that thorough knowledge of the market and also have the extensive training needs analysis done alongside the end users.

As we move towards a new decade, I believe it is very important that we keep up to date with the technologies and media that are available to us, and obviously that we follow processes for a customer, for example a Systematic Approach to Training must be agreed and followed in whatever guise Quadrant 4 decides to undertake.  

Finally, the customer must make sure that there is a feedback loop in any training programme, both from an internal and an external validation perspective, as well as considering information from the operational environment. These aspects will continue to ensure that the training that Quadrant 4 provides continues to meet the needs of the customer, now and well into the future.