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A few years ago, I was sitting in Cornwall minding my own business knowing nothing about Computers. I realised that computers were fast taking over the world. Now my idea wasn't really world domination, but I would rather dominate computers than have them dominate me. So not being one to do things by halves, I decided to do a Degree in Computer science.
That was a very rude awakening as I was getting on a bit and no one really teaches at University, you just have to learn. Once I had survived the whole experience with a lot of help from my friends, I realised that there were loads of other people out there who, like me needed to learn about computers and IT, but, once you know about these things it is very hard to teach someone who doesn't. It's no use saying click the File menu to someone who doesn't know how to use a mouse!
As part of my placement year at University I started teaching Adults how to use a PC. I took a C&G 7307 teaching qualification. This course taught me how to design courses and lessons. It also taught me how to teach Adults so that they could actually take in what they were learning according to their own individual learning style.
I am upgrading my teaching qualification to a Masters In Education. I have been teaching IT now for about seven years. I have taught Elderly people who did not know how to turn on a computer and Visually impaired people who use special software called a screen reader (Jaws). I have taught from Entry Level to Advanced Level Microsoft Office skills. I have taught Web design and Animation. Just about every type of IT. I've loved every minute of it.
Now I am starting out on something new, I'm training young people who need a boost in life. Hopefully, newly gained IT skills will help them.
There are some drawbacks of course. One of them is the Qualification Maze. Whatever qualification you have, there is always something else that the employer wants! Some of them no-one ever heard of. There's SAP and there's TAP and there's MCSE, MCDST, MCSA, ITIL and PRINCE2 and there's ...the list is endless. I'd like to see them turn their noses up at my Masters when I've got it!
If you are passionate about helping people get the best out of their computer, and you don't mind the travel, the long hours, the relatively poor pay, go for it. Decide on a qualification route that suits you and stick to it.
This review is written from my personal experiences of working as a Software Trainer. I haven't listed a job description for the role as one could look that up quite easily from various job search websites on the net...
~ BACKGROUND ~
I worked as a Software Trainer for over 5 years during the 90s. I got into the role in rather an unusual way. I'd been working for a company for a while as a temp and really enjoyed working with the friendly people there in the HR (Human Resources) department. One day I was approached by the HR Manager and asked if I would be interested in working there permanently as they were considering creating a full time position for a PC Training Officer.
The reasons they gave for offering me the position were:
a) I'd been there a while and they felt I was an effective and key part of the team
b) Whenever someone in the department had a problem with using the PC (e.g. formatting a document, print settings, etc) it had become second nature to give me a call as I usually knew what to do and did so willingly
c) The company was spending about £200 a day sending people on external software training courses and staff were not finding it very useful - i.e. it was costing more than it would cost to pay a full member of staff to do the actual training
I thought about it for all of about 5 minutes and accepted the job. It's very flattering to be told a job was being created with you in mind and after having worked in temporary roles for several years (which is where I had picked up the IT skills I had gained to make this job offer possible) I felt this was a company where I saw myself staying for a good while where I could progress my career.
Enough of the background of how I got into it...
~ TRAIN THE TRAINER COURSE ~
I was sent on a week's Train the Trainer course to give me a formal introduction to training. It was a very useful course and the areas covered included:
1) Designing training courses
2) Presentation skills
3) Organising dates and venues for your courses
4) Course delivery; including how to get trainees involved in the session, how to ensure that you know trainees have understood what you have delivered, etc
5) Devising course evaluations and ensuring trainee feedback is acted upon
6) Post course feedback (e.g. checking trainees are putting into practice what they've learnt once they return to the workplace)
As well as being a real eye-opener, it was also slightly daunting as on the 3rd day we were required to actually deliver a mini training session to the rest of the group on a subject of our own choice. Everyone was very constructive in their feedback but for people who are not used to presenting to groups, it was quite scary. This was also recorded on video and played back to us so we could see how we came across, give ourselves honest and constructive feedback and work on any areas needing improvement.
~ BACK TO THE OFFICE ~
Initially I carried out one to one training with individual staff at the office where I was based (Head Office), going to their work area and showing them how to use the software packages - at the time these were Word Perfect 5.1 (who remembers that?) and Lotus 1-2-3 (both versions were for DOS) - this was before Windows became the most commonly used Operating System.
A few weeks later I was given a company car and started delivering training to staff at other offices across the UK. I got to stay in nice hotels overnight and initially found this to be quite an enjoyable luxury.
The advantage of carrying out training this way was that I could deliver training to individuals and tailor it exactly to their needs. They could ask questions to their heart's content without feeling that they were slowing down the training session for other participants and without feeling that the question was "too dumb" to ask. I had to make the trainee trust me as a colleague and friend in order for them to be totally comfortable with learning from me.
The disadvantage with this form of training was that there were constant interruptions. I would be sitting at their workstation and there would be phone calls every few minutes (as all staff had direct lines), other colleagues coming to the desk to ask questions or just to pass the time of day. This tended to be quite time-consuming and distracting for both the trainee and myself.
The company started to grow and Windows started to become more popular (I think it was Windows 3.1 that we started with). It was mutually decided that I would need to deliver group sessions instead of one to one sessions (except in exceptional circumstances). I was quite nervous about starting off the group sessions as I'd been doing the one to one sessions for over 6 months now.
The company was growing at such a rate that it was no longer practical to do individual training. I needed a plan of action.
I had to organise training dates and venues so I could accommodate up to 6 trainees at a time. I was allocated 6 PC's. I had to organise dates so that they wouldn't clash with any major meetings which were due to take place in meeting rooms at 2 key locations in the UK where I was to deliver the training. I had to publish the dates of the training I was to deliver and let people know at what level they would be pitched, i.e. Basic, Intermediate or Advanced. We had identified who would be requiring training from a Training Needs Analysis carried out in advance and it was down to me to organise with department heads when they could release the staff members to attend training.
Once the training was carried out, all trainees were given Training Evaluation Forms so as to give their feedback on every aspect of the training received, such as:
a) Was it delivered in a clear and concise manner?
b) Were your objectives met for attending the training?
c) Was the trainer discriminatory in any way?
d) Were you given a chance to ask questions during the session?
The feedback received from trainees was worked upon to improve courses. Post course briefs were also sent to trainees some 4 weeks after the training to see if they had implemented what they had learnt back at the workplace and to ask again if there was anything that wasn't covered on the course that they would have found beneficial.
~ PROS AND CONS OF THE ROLE ~
The advantages of this role from my point of view include:
a) No 2 training sessions were ever the same, different trainees ask different questions, people learn at different paces
b) It's very rewarding imparting knowledge to people which helps them develop
c) You get to travel around to different places and stay in nice hotels on expenses
d) I got a new company car at least once a year
e) I met some wonderful people across the company, some of whom I'm still in contact with up to 10 years later
The disadvantages of the role include:
a) Can get lonely eating alone in restaurants in hotels several times a week when stating away from home
b) Can get tiring if you're delivering training all day every day as you're on the feet most of the time
c) Not good when you have a cold or sore throat as you're talking most of the time
As with any training role, to be a Software Trainer, you have to enjoy working with people and have to enjoy sharing your knowledge with others. You have to be patient and understanding and ensure that you don't patronise your trainees. You need to know your product (the software package you are training people to use) pretty much inside out to be able to answer any questions from the trainees. It's important not to make a trainee like a fool if they ask a question, which may seem obvious or irrelevant to you or others. Ensure you give equal attention to all of your trainees. It is also important to ensure you keep control of the session, as sometimes you might have a trainee who questions a lot, likes to talk a lot and monopolises your time throughout the session or you might have a smart Alec who thinks he/she knows more than you and tries to make you trip up! Luckily this has never happened to me, but you need to be ready for it if it does happen...
You really need to be very technically minded and have good communications and interpersonal skills. There are various IT qualifications will help you in this role (I can't be specific as there are so many different qualifications in IT and different roles require different qualifications). Also a Chartered Institute of Personnel Development qualification such as Certificate in Training Practice would be useful to have.
Some jobs are based at a local office and people will come to your training centre for training or you could be travelling across many sites, maybe even work at different client sites depending on your organisations requirements.
You can expect to earn anything from £20,000 up to £35,000 or more depending on your experience and skills level.
There are good prospects in this role, if you're good enough you can move into a Training Manager role or IT Systems roles where the sky is the limit where salary and benefits are concerned.
~ CONCLUSION ~
As a job I'd rate being a Software Trainer as 8 out of 10. If you like helping people, are very proficient in software systems, and enjoy helping people to develop by sharing your knowledge; then this is job which could be just right for you.