Skills Training is in real danger today!

So-called “Training Producers” and ill-informed “Buyers” are the cause!

Far too many people have forgotten the definition of “Training.” Information is beginning to blur the lines. And, unfortunately, the real losers will be those workers who need to Learn-through-Training—both for themselves and for their organizations.

The distinction between Education and Training has been clear for centuries. While “Education” is difficult to pin down, generally, the accepted definition revolves around the acquiring of Knowledge for one of a variety of purposes. And, there is a plethora of research indicating that Knowledge arises in the mind of an individual when that person interacts with an idea or experience.
Socrates argued that education was about drawing out what was already within the student. (the word “Education” comes from the Latin “e-ducere,” meaning “to lead out.”)

Although there are multidunous modern variations, the one that says it best for me is credited to Ayn Rand:

“The only purpose of education is to teach a student how to live his life-by developing his mind and equipping him to deal with reality. He has to be taught to think, to understand, to integrate, to prove. He has to be taught the essentials of the knowledge discovered in the past — and he has to be equipped to acquire further knowledge by his own effort.”

Training, on the other hand, has historically been associated with “skills acquisition.” We learn to do something by being trained how to do it.

The old saw, “You might want your children to take Sex Education but you wouldn’t want them to take Sex Training” makes the distinction pretty clear.

Information is merely an ingredient successfully incorporated into both Education and Training. According to Bernd Hornung, “Information is the meaning of the representation of a fact (or of a message) for the receiver.” We become educated or trained, partially, through the acquisition of information.

So, what’s the big problem?!?

Raw information is being packaged today by many, many training vendors and passed off as Skills Training. And, too many uninformed buyers mistakenly believe that Information is successful Skills Training.


Skills Training is Doing. That Doing may be hands-on or it may be vicarious through well designed multi-sensory media courseware. Information is merely the background knowledge that may, or may not, be necessary to the Doing.

We learn to pack a pump by doing it — not by reading about it. In the First Grade we learned to hold a pencil correctly by practicing the doing of it.

So, why are so many vendors passing off Information courseware that is so easy to produce? Because it requires no knowledge of either the learning process or of knowledgeable instructional design.

Effective skills training is more difficult to produce because it offers genuine value for one’s customers. A decade ago, almost all vendors in the media-based skills training business were committed to Learning and to sound instructional design. Unfortunately, most of those visionary men and women are now retired.

Today, particularly with the advent of e-Learning, the “money men” dominate most training companies! Cheap, ineffective Information courses are being passed off as Skills Training in order for their producers to make a quick buck. And, uninformed buyers are not holding those charlatan vendors to the highest standards of effective skills acquisition.

We need to change that equation!

More on Friday – – – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder of ITC Learning