Ten Tips for Choosing a Training Provider

Successful companies have well trained and competent employees. They know how to perform their jobs efficiently and effectively. However, employees may not have the necessary knowledge and skills for new assignments.

I wrote a “Practical Guide for Choosing a Training Provider” for BSI-CEEM. You can see the full article at <http://www.ceem.com/guides.asp>. Part of the article is summarized below:

Based on training needs and your evaluation of training methods, you may decide to acquire the training solution from outside your organization. Examine carefully the potential training providers. Review their written information and consider these ten tips. Base your selection on how well providers can respond to your training needs and constraints.

1. Identify Training Providers

If you’ve had good results in the past with a training provider, see if the course is part of its curriculum. However, don’t blindly select the course. Consider the remaining evaluation tips offered in this guide.

If the course is needed for student certification, ensure it is a properly accredited course. For example, the Registrar Accreditation Board maintains a list of accredited internal and lead auditor courses for quality and environmental management systems. See their web site at http://www.rabnet.com.

Searching the Internet may identify possible training solutions for further evaluation. Also listen to suggestions from co-workers and friends at other companies that may have had similar requirements.

2. Evaluate Training Providers

If you are unfamiliar with a training provider, determine how long they been in business. See if you are dealing with a stable and respected organization. Check with references before making a decision.

It is important for the training provider to offer a broad curriculum and have extensive experience so they can satisfy your needs with an integrated set of comprehensive courses.

Some training providers even practice what they teach. See if they have a quality management system that has been registered to ISO 9001:2000 by an independent auditing firm.

3. Review Course Content

You can’t tell by a course title if the content will satisfy your training needs. So, it is important to review the course objectives, audience, topics, and agenda. How it is packaged and delivered is equally important.

In addition to covering the appropriate subjects, in-depth courses should provide practical examples and exercises. For some courses, it may be important to engage students in case studies and role-play activities.

The course should provide adequate time for questions, and as appropriate, share information on student performance. Quizzes may be used to monitor student progress. Knowledge may be judged through exams.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” Courses should be designed as interactive learning experiences.

If the course includes an international standard as a reference, such as ISO 9001, make sure the course has been revised to reflect the latest version of the standard. The same holds true with industry schemes, such as, AS9100 for aerospace, ISO/TS 16949 for automotive, and TL 9000 for telecommunications.

For quality system auditing courses, the ISO 10011 auditing guidance should be integrated into the course materials. Similarly, environmental system auditing courses should adopt the ISO 14010/11/12 guidelines. Both types of auditing courses should incorporate the ISO 19011 guidance when it becomes available.

Online e-learning courses should be easy to review, register, and launch. Other features to consider might be discussion forums, note taking, screen prints, and pre- and post-assessments.

4. Evaluate Instructors

Students consider instructors as important as the course content. However, some training providers may cut corners and select instructors for low fees and geographic proximity. Unfortunately, your class might be the first time the instructor has even seen the course materials.

You want a training provider that chooses instructors based on experience, certifications, expertise, and communication skills. Students want instructors that have done what they teach.

Find out who will be the instructors and ask for their credentials. See if they have been trained on the materials and how many times they have taught the course. Review copies of their student evaluations.

Talented instructors can explain complex subjects in an understandable way. Their classes are enjoyable and meet the learning objectives.

5. Evaluate Student Materials

Poor course materials can greatly diminish the value of a course. See if the training provider is willing to provide a copy of the materials (or a sample) for your evaluation.

The student materials should be easy to read. They should be formatted for quick retrieval of information. Presentation slide copies should be included, along with space for taking notes. However, the need for recording additional information should be minimal based on the slide details and associated course notes.

Slide copies and course notes should be prepared in a readable size and format. The supplied student books and handouts should become valuable references after class. If standards are an integral part of the course, copies should be provided for the students.

See if certificates are issued as proof of the training. Check on the issuance of Continuing Education Units if CEUs are needed for professional development reasons.

6. Consider Training Costs

You want the best training solution, but cost is still a factor. The selected training provider should have competitive prices. However, be wary of the lowest cost provider. Training from these sources may be delivered by less qualified instructors, have inadequate content, and result in less value.

Some training providers offer discounts for enrollments made more than a month in advance. Take advantage of these reduced fees by planning your training. Additional discounts may be offered for multiple students from the same organization attending the same class.

Public classes incur travel and living costs, as well as, possible job-related costs for time away from work. If the estimated travel costs for multiple students at a public class strain your budget, see if the course can be offered at your facility.

7. Examine the Curriculum

Quite often, your training need is for a sequence of related courses. View the recommended course roadmap to see if the training provider has the appropriate curriculum.

For example, students pursuing internal auditor training may begin with a requirements course, followed by an internal auditor course. After gaining experience, they may return for a lead auditor course. Depending on their assignments, they may also be interested in a system documentation or implementation course.

Select a training provider that can satisfy your current and future training needs. After choosing well, you’d like to rely primarily on a single supplier as your training partner.

8. Check Training Support

Most training providers have an Internet presence. You can view course descriptions, see class pricing, and enroll online. Their web sites may even provide hotel information for public classes. But what if you want to talk to someone? Does the training provider have a toll-free telephone number for questions?

When you deal with their office, you should be promptly connected with knowledgeable people. Be aware that their staff capability and attitude is often a reflection on their training solutions. Assess their ability to provide information on class schedules, travel directions, and payment methods.

9. Consider Learning Environment

Put a great course and instructor in a cramped, cold, poorly lighted room and learning suffers. Ask about the planned class location and layout. Will students be comfortable and able to easily see the presentation?

Verify the number of students will be kept to a reasonable level for individual attention. Ask about the planned number of breaks. Determine if lunch will be provided. Will the presentation use old-fashioned transparencies or computer-driven graphics?

10. Check Course Availability

If the desired training isn’t offered when and where you need it, then it doesn’t meet your requirements. See if the training provider offers a wide choice of class dates and locations. Also verify the class will be held as planned. Don’t make travel arrangements until you receive confirmation it has sufficient students.

If you are interested in an on-site class, check on the availability of their instructors to meet your schedule. Asynchronous e-Learning classes are at your own pace. However, synchronous, scheduled classes should be available often enough to meet your needs. Training should be “just-in-time” so learning can be applied immediately to solidify the new knowledge.