ACADEMY INSTITUTE TRAINING FUNDAMENTAL
WHAT IS A TRAINING PROGRAM?
For starters, a good training program is just that -- an actual program, which looks at training as not just a one-time event. What makes a training program different from an orientation program is that it covers a much broader area.
Orientation is an introduction to the organization, the job, the target population, and the community. Even if it goes on through the first few months of employment, it is only an introduction, meant to get a staff member used to new job.
Training is directly related to the skills, knowledge, and strategies necessary to do a particular job. It can include teaching staff members new skills, exposing them to unfamiliar ideas, giving them the chance to practice and get feedback on particular techniques or styles of working with people, or simply encouraging them to discuss their work with one another. And it can, and should, be ongoing throughout a staff member's employment.
WHAT IS INCLUDED IN A TRAINING PROGRAM?
As with much of the Community Tool Box, what follows here is an ideal. Most small grassroots and community-based groups probably don't have the resources to do everything, or perhaps even most of the things, on this list. You can do something, however. The program use the talents of its own staff members for a lot of its ongoing training, and take advantage of opportunities to partner with other organizations as well.
A comprehensive training program might include the following:
• Training for new staff who've never done this particular work before.
• Training for new staff who may be experienced in the work of the position, but not in the particular method or style which our organization uses.
• Staff development: ongoing training for all staff.
• Professional development. While this term is often used interchangeably with staff development, we've chosen to define it as leading either to specific new knowledge, or to the next level of expertise. Professional development might encompass several possibilities:
o College or graduate courses.
o Attendance at conferences.
o Study circles: groups of professionals who meet regularly to discuss readings and/or members' writing and research on topics of mutual interest. A study circle may have a facilitator to help guide reading and discussions, or members may take turns acting as facilitator.
o Field-generated courses or workshops: courses or workshops that grow out of the needs of practitioners, who find people to teach them.
o Institutes: Courses run by non-academic institutions, often involving observation and hands-on practice instead of or in addition to lectures, discussion, and reading.
Both staff and professional development require a certain amount of organizational support. At the very least, ongoing training and professional development need to be viewed as part of every staff member's job, and a certain amount of time should be devoted to them. Other types of organizational support can include:
• Payment of some or all tuition for academic courses (usually limited to a specific amount of money or coursework per semester).
• Registration fees for conferences or institutes up to a certain amount.
• Release time for specific training activities.
Finally, a training program should apply to everyone in the organization, from administrators to line staff to support staff. All need, and should have the chance, to become continually better at what they do, improving both their own and the organization 's effectiveness.
WHY RUN A TRAINING PROGRAM?
Operating as a nonprofit trades and career training sports program, participates interested in gaining the skills and knowledge of the professional minor league sports industry, should obtain the introductory skills needed for entry into the field.
A training program looks like it might involve a fair amount of work and cost some money. Does the organization really need one? The answer is yes, for a number of reasons.
For new staff, there's what seems an obvious answer: a training program is necessary so they can start their jobs with some idea of what they're supposed to do and how to do it. But there are a number of other ways in which a training program can help new staff members:
• It shows them that the organization is serious about what it does, and therefore encourages them to be serious about it, too.
• It makes them feel that the organization is supportive of them.
• Having the proper training boosts their confidence in their ability to do their jobs.
• A training program can help to convince new staff members of the value of the organization's philosophy and methods.
• It enlists them as "regulars" in the organization by giving them a vocabulary and way of looking at their work similar to those of others in the organization.
• It shortens the time needed for them to become competent at their jobs.
• It reduces their need to ask other staff for advice or information, and thus increases their independence and decreases the drain on other staff members.
• It greatly diminishes the chance that they'll make mistakes that cost the organization in prestige, public relations, credibility, lawsuits, or money.
For veteran staff, a training program also has numerous benefits:
• It helps them to become continually more competent at what they do.
• It increases their knowledge of the field by introducing them to the latest research and theory, and can expose them to new ideas which ultimately may improve their own effectiveness and that of the organization.
• By keeping them from becoming bored and stale, it helps them to maintain interest in and enthusiasm for their work.
• It can expose them to other practitioners with different -- and perhaps better -- methods.
• It gives them one more reason to stay with the organization.
• It keeps the organization as a whole dynamic: thinking, growing, and changing. A dynamic organization is almost always a healthy and effective one.
In short, a good ongoing training program for all staff increases organizational effectiveness and keeps it increasing, rather than allowing the organization to stagnate.