Hello. My name is Scott, and I have been asked to discuss training within the public sector. I have my CPTD and will be giving you my thoughts and insights every couple weeks. I’ve been working in the corporate training industry for nearly 20 years within the military and public and private sectors. I intend to cover items that I have learned over the years, the issues I have dealt with working in the public sector, and my thoughts on being an instructional designer and training coordinator.
In my last blog post, I talked about the start of my instructional designer journey while in the navy. The Submarine and Nuclear Navy has always had high standards for the quality of its training, and my last assignment was at a schoolhouse in San Diego. I was assigned two roles. The first was as an instructor, where I taught fellow submariners how to combat fires and flooding on submarines. I then moved out of the classroom and became responsible for ensuring that staff members earned and maintained their required qualifications to teach their students and courses. In this role, I was the in-house expert on how to be a classroom instructor and evaluated each of the instructor’s teaching abilities.
I had known that as a corporate training professional I could be expected to develop and deliver material on any topic. Watching my fellow instructors teach their courses, I realized how true that would be. I learned that I could be called upon to teach topics outside of my personal background and expertise, and I saw the art of facilitating discussion and using the students to vice lecture the class. This showed me that I was going to be put on the spot to answer questions that I wouldn’t know the answer to, even though I had studied and learned the course material. I learned to use the experts around me to teach me and their fellow classmates.
When I was discharged from the navy, I was working on my master’s in education and geographically tied to southern California. With the way my program was set up, I needed to be able to attend classes in this area every other weekend for 15 months. I started working with a headhunter who specialized in working with veterans. Though they knew I was hoping for a corporate training position, I was offered an interview with a mining company in the middle of the Mohave Desert north of Los Angeles as a shift operations supervisor. As I was researching the company, I discovered they needed a new training coordinator, so I took the interview in the direction that I wanted. Thanks to my background of operating and maintaining a submarine’s propulsion and electric plant, I became the on-site ore refinery’s training coordinator. I was also hired to manage the training for the site’s small electric plant. Though the job was a good fit professionally, it was not a good fit personally, and I left the company.
A friend of mine had moved to southwest Missouri to attend college. She needed help with her two-year-old twin boys and her schoolwork. We agreed that I would become “the manny” for my godsons and help her with her math and science schoolwork. In return, she would give me free room and board. My intent was to become a freelance instructional designer. Unfortunately, after a couple years, I wasn’t able to obtain and maintain a critical mass of projects to make it viable, so I decided to return to corporate America. I was hired by a consulting firm that specialized in developing training for coal and natural gas electric plants. On my first day, I was introduced to the firm as the training expert to help modernize their training practices and products. Our process was to first write multichapter training and operations manuals. Each chapter would focus on a specific system or component. These manuals included pictures of the installed equipment and customized system diagrams, and some of these chapters were more than 500 pages. Our next step was to copy paragraphs from this manual and paste them into a PowerPoint presentation. Finally, we would go to the site and “teach” the operations and maintenance staff about their equipment. I say “teach” because we would read the slides to the students.
Yes, we would write extensive manuals, copy the written paragraph from the manual and paste it on to a blank slide, then read those paragraphs to the staff.
Knowing this was ineffective training, I questioned the company’s president and owner. He responded that this was what the customer wanted. He also said that the customer didn’t know what effective training could or should look like due to their training managers not having a formal background in training. They only knew what they experienced as students going through their training over their more than 20-year-long careers.
It was 2015, and we were developing training and teaching as if it was 1995.
After being bewildered by this line of thinking and, in my opinion, unethical practice, I started a passive search for what would become my third job in six years. I was worried a future employer would see my frequent movement as a negative. As luck would turn out, I answered a posting in a Facebook group asking for someone who was either a submariner or a former navy nuke with a training background to join the training team at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) located outside of Las Vegas.
In my next entry, I’ll discuss my experience in becoming first a training coordinator for a specialized engineering group and how I transitioned to be an instructional designer at the NNSS.