Tuesday 17th August 2021
Adrian Kiernan, Managing Director of La Touche Training, discusses the impact Covid has had on the training sector and where training is headed.
How has your training delivery changed over the past 16 months?
Covid has had a significant impact on many industries in Ireland – the hospitality, entertainment and sporting sector have all had a very tough year with many businesses unable to operate in any form. Thankfully training is not in the same position.
Prior to 2020, the training sector in Ireland was largely a face-to-face business, so what happens when it is no longer safe or permitted to meet or train in person? Like many other training providers, La Touche Training needed to act fast when restrictions came in. By the end of March 2020, we quickly became experts in Zoom, MS Teams, Webex and an array of other virtual platforms. The training methodologies that were designed for the classroom for over 25 years needed to be tailored for a virtual format. Our team of specialist trainers not only needed to develop the technical skillset to deliver interactive training in a virtual format, but they also needed to bring a virtual room full of attendees with them through Wifi, audio, camera, and background noise challenges.
It was a steep learning curve, not least in educating the market that virtual training was not only a viable alternative but could also achieve the same results as some face-to-face training. They say, ‘necessity is the mother of all invention’ – well this was certainly true for some sectors and in particular government agencies who previously felt virtual training ‘is not allowed’ or ‘will not work’.
Within a couple of weeks, we had run our first virtual session and with notable improvements in delivery and tweaks in content, we were running a large amount of public and commercial sector training by May 2020.
What have been the most significant challenges to learning and what has La Touche Training done to combat these challenges?
While many sectors are well set up for virtual learning in terms of hardware and software access, some organisations are not able to provide laptops to staff. Other people have poor WiFi access or did not have the physical space to attend a training course while working from home and juggling home-schooling at the same time!
La Touche Training needed to adapt course duration, provide on-demand content for attendees to view in their own time and for some clients, provided training to large screens for a group of people in a socially distanced conference room.
One of the key areas that is difficult to replicate online is the networking element that comes from physically sitting in a room with others on a training day. An opportunity to chat with colleagues, competitors and new acquaintances over coffee or during course exercises is a valuable component to any learning. Virtual remedies include the strategic use of breakout rooms, private booths, networking sessions can help, but are not a like-for-like substitute to the real thing.
Where do you see the future of learning? How will this affect La Touche Training and its clients?
Unfortunately, Covid is still making the headlines on a daily basis, so it is difficult to see businesses bringing all staff back to the office on a permanent basis before 2022. The overwhelming success of remote working will mean that many organisations will adopt hybrid approach to home and office working going forward, so individuals will not be as available to attend face to face training as they were pre-covid.
We have some clients who find that virtual learning really works for them and do not want to go back to face to face training at all. They enjoy the flexibility it offers and have teams dotted around the country so no longer need to manage the logistics and cost of bringing the entire team together for a full 4- or 5-day training course.
I personally believe that the future is Hybrid Learning – not for a half or one-day course, but for multiple day courses like our ‘Investigation Skills’ courses, I can certainly see the benefits. It would give organisations the flexibility and cost savings associated with running some of the training virtually but getting the entire group together in the room (when it is safe & permitted to do so!) for perhaps, the final 2 days of a 4-day course would have massive benefits.
Our development team are already looking at amending course content to make the most of both options – front loading some of the ‘information/theory based’ learning for the virtual format and enhancing the exercise/role-play elements for the face-to-face components.
We are fortunate to work in a sector where we can quickly adopt to client’s needs and while all clients were in the same boat for the past year, the next 12 months will mean there is more choice and we will be there to meet their needs whether it is virtual, in person or a combination of both.
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