How to choose a Training Provider
Choosing a Training Provider can be a minefield regardless of if it is for First Aid, Plumbing or Underwater Basket Weaving, with every company claiming to be the best. How do you choose? What do you base your decisions on?
This article is not an advert for Real First Aid; If you take on board these suggestions and choose any one of our competitors, you can be confident in having selected a credible Training Provider and receiving the highest quality education.
1. Leave Google until later...
Throwing in any search of Training Providers into Google will generate hundreds of thousands of hits. In the UK alone there are over 12,300 Training Providers operating above the VAT threshold1 with countless others including small business and sole-traders.
This is too vast an area to start with. Begin by asking friends or colleagues who they would recommend or avoid.
2. Be careful who you ask.
Many people will confidently tell you they enjoyed "the best course ever", with no frame of reference. If that is the only course they have been on, how do they know? If they have attended the course several times with the same Training Provider, this is not an objective opinion.
Talk to people who have experienced the same or similar courses with several providers.
We may only attend a course infrequently but companies will often put employees through training so ask friends who their company uses. If you are an employee who is organising training, ask your counterpart in a different company. Even in a competitive market you will be surprised how open and honest people can be if their 'competitor' gets in touch to ask their advice. It's really flattering to be asked your opinion and recommending a Training Provider is not exactly giving away trade secrets, it is sharing best practice.
Reputations make or break businesses and both good and bad reputations spread quickly, but what about the mediocre?
If someone describes a particular course with "It was all right", "Not too bad" or some other dismissive reply, is this enough? Would you spend your money on anything else that was just "all right"? Does your business invest on equipment which is "not bad"? Seek excellence - given the number of TPs available you have the choice.
3. Don't count Stars.
There are several websites which provide reviews of Training Providers and courses; it's not how many stars they have, it's the comments beneath.
I never ask a candidate what they thought at the end of a course because it is almost always returned with"Thanks, it was really good; I really enjoyed it" and this is a stock answer in exactly the same way that when you ask someone "How are you?", regardless of how their day is going (unless they are in the middle of a catastrophe!) they will almost always reply with "Fine thanks" or "Not too bad".
These are token replies. Even if it was the worst course they had been on, most people are too polite to say so to the instructors face.
If you give someone a score sheet review (1 = bad, 10 = Excellent) at the end of the day when they know they are so close to freedom, we all just run through the questions ticking 10,10,10,10,10,9 (just to make it look like I though about it), 10,10,10.
When people give Stars on on-line revirews, most will give 5 if their course was anything between Average and Excellent. Who wants to be the one who leaves 3 or 4?
If people have left 5 Stars, read the comments: If the comments are "Nice venue, friendly instructor" they are just being polite. These are basic standards you should expect from any Training Provider.
What have they written which stands out? What were you not expecting them to mention?
Low scores of 1 or 2 are also important. Someone must have a genuine reason to have taken the time to leave negative feedback. What prompted this? Are they just bitter about something or are there concerning criticisms about the quality ?
4. Scan their Website.
Websites are a very superficial representation of a business; even the smallest one-man-band can have the glossiest website which frames the business as bigger than it really is so a smart website is not necessarily representative...
But a bad website?
There is absolutely no reason for anyone, even the sole-trader, to have a bad website. A bad website is representative. A low quality website reflects a low quality provider. Alarm bells should ring if:
- Contact information is a mobile phone number or a hotmail / yahoo account. Avoid!
- Page links lead to 404 Error messages
- Be aware of courses "Available from 2016" - They either provide the course or don't. Six months prior promotion is reasonable but 12 months? More than likely they are trying to attract search engines with courses they do not provide.
And the cardinal sin:
- Spelling mistakes. We have all rushed off an important email with 'adn' or 'teh' in it but there is no excuse for shockingly bad spelling, grammar or complete paragraphs in CAPITALS. Every now and again you may pick up a spelling mistake in an article from a National publisher or even from a government body but more than one is a worry.
Training Providers are in the business of Education. Poor literacy skills are not a good advert.
5. Read their website.
If their website presents a professional image with no alarm bells ringing, what do they say about themselves?
"ACME Training Providers are a reputable company.."
This really should not have to be said. The basic expectation is that every professional company is reputable. No one would say "ACME Training Providers are a little bit low-budget.." so why do they feel the need to say this?
It is bit like people who tell you they have a great sense of humour. Clearly they don't; otherwise they would not need to tell you. Anyone who describes themselves as 'a people person' probably has limited social skills.
These are opinions for other people to form. Not for them to tell you.
"ACME Training Providers are the most respected providers of XYZ in the market"
Really? How do they know? They may think they are but show me the evidence. Some statements are far too easy to make and far too easy to believe.
You want to know what they do that no one else does. If they make a statement, can they give examples?
6. Beware the Training Provider that offers EVERYTHING.
There is real benefit in choosing a Training Provider who can offer a range of relevant courses. Once you have found a good Training Provider for one course you should be confident in their ability to provide other courses of a similar quality.
The Training Provider who proudly offers a range of 600 courses, do they really have that much expertise or are they solely interested in the sheer volume of certificates they can print and income they generate?
7. What accreditation do they offer?
I have written about Accreditation methods in a separate article. The 3 main means of accreditation for all training courses are:
- External Accreditation - from an Awarding Organisation which is recognised by Ofqual
- Approval from a Trade Body
- In-House certification from an independent Training Provider
On face value, External Accreditation would seem the most reliable indicator with in-house certification seeming the least credible.
It is not just about the accreditation; it is about what other Quality Assurance systems they have in place.
A sole-trader offering specialised, but In-House certification, who uses qualified and experienced instructors who deliver training to recognised guidelines or standards ( or based on cited evidence ) is in a better position to deliver credible, professional training to a higher quality than a large business who flaunt the rules to cut costs and ensure all of their candidates pass. Regardless of how many logos are on their website or certificates.
External Accreditation is an indicator but by no means a guarantee.
8. You get what you pay for.
As a rule, you do get what you pay for. This is certainly true with low cost options. The only way a Training Provider who is drastically cheaper than their competitors can sustain a profit is by cutting their costs:
- A small selection of poor quality equipment
- Uncomfortable training environment
- Large class sizes
- Poor resources
- Attempting to shorten the course to fewer hours or days
If most courses are £500 over 5 days and someone offers you the same course for £350 in 3 days, this is not a bonus. You will leave with the same certificate as someone who went elsewhere but will you have the ability to apply your new skills to the same standard? Are you now capable of employing these skills?
This rule does not automaticly apply conversely: The most expensive does not necessarily mean the best. If one Training Provider is significantly more expensive than the others you should be able to find out why very quickly. If they offer a unique experience or legitimate benefit it may be worth the added cost. Reputation or Brand Name alone does not justify a customer having to spend more than they need to.
9. Who are the Trainers?
A good quality Trainer needs to be able to demonstrate expertise in two fields of equal importance:
You would expect an A-Level maths teacher to have a Degree in Mathematics. The real tragedy of the First Aid at Work course is that the minimum qualification a Trainer needs is just the First Aid at Work certificate!
The trainer needs the knowledge - and hands-on experience - to be able to field questions confidently and to be able to express ideas or techniques in different ways to accommodate the different learners.
But by the same token you do not need to have a Doctorate in Mathematics to teach it. We all remember the teacher or lecturer who was clearly very intelligent but you learned nothing from them. Sadly a minority of Trainers use their position to demonstrate their knowledge or fill time with endless anecdotes.
This is why you should also look for their other field of expertise:
There are a range of Teaching and Training courses which enable a Trainer to deliver accredited training ranging from the 5-day PTLLS (which can be done on-line!) up to post-graduate degrees. Is someone who has spent 5 days in front of a PC the best person to be teaching you?
10. Talk to them.
By now you should have whittled your choice down to two or three Training Providers. You may have had to expand your geographical search to do so but by now it should be worth the extra travel.
Call them. You can get a feel from a conversation much more intuitively than you can from reading a website. If possible, speak to the person who will be delivering the training. Any reputable Trainer will have no hesitation in answering any of your questions about their background and experience.
If you suspect a bit of bluffing is going on, smoke and mirrors or difficulty / hesitancy in answering any of your questions - no matter how probing - that should tell you something.
If they sound like the kind of company:
- You would confidently give your money to
- Happily spend time in their company
- Learn something from them
They are probably, by now, the safest bet.
If you go to the Training Provider 'down the road' because everyone else does you will hopefully leave with a certificate.
You may have to travel a bit further but if you do a little bit of homework you will be rewarded with enjoying the experience and hopefully leaving with a credible certificate and with the confidence and competence to apply these new skills.