Decisions: Learning evolving
Technology has impacted the way the skills and training are addressed in enterprise, but not necessarily in the ways expected, reports PAUL HEARNS
15 October 2018 | 0
The rapid pace of information and communications technology development has rippled out in all directions meaning that anything connected with it has also had to develop at an accelerated pace.
Skills and training is one such area.
The impact of technologies has influenced how education and training programmes are developed and delivered, with new demands for adaptive, personalised learning, as well as shorter more flexible courses that are flexible and user friendly.
“Fewer companies want the full one week or even three-day courses offsite,” said Susan Kelly, assistant network manager, Technology Ireland ICT Skillnet. “More are opting for short courses and blended learning with a mix of online and onsite as the preferred option.”
This is a point supported by Tom O’Sullivan, deputy CEO, Irish Computer Society. While the classroom-like instructor-led training still has its place, blended learning employing a range of delivery methods is most effective currently, according to O’Sullivan.
“The benefits of eLearning and online content is that it is there any time, whenever you want it, meaning you don’t necessarily have to take time out of your work schedule to do it, but it is unsupported,” said O’Sullivan.
The blended approach, he argues, allows people to learn at their own pace, as well as take advantage of the more formal settings where appropriate.
“There is no one method that is better than all others, it is a blended approach that yields the best results,” said O’Sullivan.
However, within that blended space, technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) and gamification have changed the way that learning is delivered.
According to market research company Technavio, in the era of personalised learning, it has become even more important for corporate trainers to design programmes that enhance employees’ knowledge in an effective manner.
“Through AI technology, corporate trainers can read text documents and detect concepts and learning paths. This technology helps improve the documentation of the training process, and create subsequent tests and training content,” says Technavio.
The researcher cites a US company volley.com, whose programmes are used by Starbucks, Comcast, and Continental Tires, that uses artificial intelligence to detect gaps in employees’ knowledge and generate personalised solutions to address these deficits.
Technavio also maintains that technologies such as AR/VR are key to helping develop problem solving skills.
“VR and AR help learners understand how to handle emergency situations in a proactive manner. Specifically, in cases like safety training in a refinery and handling of active chemicals, the role of cutting-edge training is critical. AR and VR can simulate such emergencies and train the workforce accordingly,” the company said.
Gamification too, is seen as a key tool that is being used more commonly, to not only engage and inspire, but to introduce a competitive element for the learner.
According to Training Industry Magazine, gamification appeals specifically to the younger generations, many of whom have little experience of technical training in the classic, classroom-based, instructor-led manner.
“This generation of employees and customers has literally grown up playing computer and video games; they gravitate towards experiences with game-like elements. Training and Development departments are seeking new ways to add entertainment components to learning activities,” it said.
This also emphasis the element not only of personalisation, but of learner control, says Training Industry.
“Game-based learning reflects another significant training trend – the increased role of learners in controlling their own learning experiences. Learning organisations are becoming more astute about leveraging technologies and providing training at point of need. They are becoming more process oriented, with greater emphasis on results.”
ICT Skillnet’s Kelly agrees, adding that the gamification technique has been particularly effectively employed in the cyber security space, where “it has proven to be very successful in identifying aptitude and quickly building skills”.
Blended learning, adding confusion
However, the move towards shorter courses and blended learning, with real world learning still playing a major role, has left many IT professionals in the awkward position of not only struggling to keep learning current, but also providing evidence of their ongoing learning.
The service model of consumption has meant the more monolithic approach to product training in particular, is less effective than previously. Now, continuous delivery and rapid iterations mean that IT professionals must keep up with ever evolving capabilities to keep skills current, often with less access to formal content. Added to this are emerging technologies such as blockchain, and the issue becomes even more complicated.
This has led to a significant change in the way that needs are addressed, according to ICS’s O’Sullivan.
“The biggest change that we have seen, and introduced, is that whenever we bring a new training programme to the market, we assume that we are going to have to supplement that training with continuous professional development (CPD),” said O’Sullivan.
While people might still do a three or a five-day instructor-led course,” he reports, “we know that we will have to provide opportunities for them to come back in three, six or nine months for two-hour briefing sessions, or via a conference on the subject.”
A recent example O’Sullivan cites, was a course in IT asset management.
Alongside that was created a special interest group of the ICS, said O’Sullivan, so that people coming through that training programme become members of the society and join the special interest group, and through the group get to network with peers and attend events where they can supplement and enhance their knowledge.
Another example is around blockchain, and the Blockchain Association of Ireland being enfolded into the ICS infrastructure.
“There will be a suite of courses, from introductory to advanced around blockchain technologies that will be supplemented by CPD events throughout the year,” said O’Sullivan.
Academic qualifications in blockchain do not really exist currently, and thus is a good example of where relevant skills for IT professionals, as well as a good record for prospective employers, can be hard to find.
Addressing career gaps
O’Sullivan said it is increasingly the case that employers need assurance and the gaps filled in between major career events, such as formal learning or job changes.
To that end, the society has created a means by which members can document and record their formal qualifications, as well as their ongoing learning and professional development.
The CareerPlus programme was launched some 18 months ago and allows users to record their complete portfolio of learning, experience and professional development.“Our members are building up evidence of knowledge and competency,” said O’Sullivan. “They have an online profile where they record their courses, CPD events, and where they can profile themselves within a competency framework.”
“They are building up a portfolio of evidence of their competencies.”
Currently users can export their profile when required, in job hunting or to demonstrate to an employer their ongoing efforts.
However, O’Sullivan said that development of the services is ongoing and soon members will be able to share a link to a public profile to facilitate demonstration of their competencies.
Another important development that is facilitated by this profile, is the development of soft skills for the IT professional.
“If we are training someone to be a great IT architect, a huge part of that is around communication, such as drawing out the needs from a customer, understanding those needs. A lot of that kind of instruction needs to be done through role play and face to face,” said O’Sullivan.
The range of soft skills necessary is often overlooked in training for technologists, he said.
O’Sullivan said that much of these soft skills are fairly standard in leadership courses, and evolves relatively slowly, allowing training providers to refine it from course to course. However, O’Sullivan said that around a third of such course content is delivered by CIOs and past alumni of the courses to address the more topical application of the content to the current environment. This equips the people taking the course with the most up to date experiences and insights to ensure they emerge with relevant skills and learning.
With an eye to the future, ICT Skillnet’s Kelly said that AR/VR technologies have not really penetrated here beyond the specialist areas of complex, hands-on skills, but are likely to do so in the future as platforms evolve and content is adapted.
However, she said that online and personalisation will continue to drive demand in the near future.
“We support eight Masters programmes, and in the past two years we have migrated 90% of the learning materials to online and blended format.”
“We are working to leverage on-demand, mobile and micro learning resources,” said Kelly.
|Fail to design, design to fail: the missing skill for planning data centres and comms rooms|
|“Many IT professionals learned on the job as new technology developments took hold. But lately, standards such as US TIA-942 or the European data centre standard EN 50600-x are becoming more widely adopted. There is also a trend to ensure energy efficiency while delivering uptime, through systems like intelligent power distribution units. All of these trends are driving a need for training to ensure these data centre projects are delivering the value they expect”||
Wood Communications Derek Finlay, director
|Over the past decade, data centre and comms room activity has exploded as more and more organisations upgrade their IT infrastructure. These facilities are the engine for growing numbers of businesses, yet few IT personnel have the skills to understand all of the elements involved, and to design a comms room correctly. That lack of knowledge could have serious consequences.
Combined, the investment in hardware, cabling and space might involve hundreds of thousands of euro. As spending on data centres and comms rooms increases, and businesses rely on them more, it is a significant risk to proceed without considering all the moving parts needed to make them work.
It is not just about choosing the switches, routers and servers, but understanding how to optimise the room layout, design the network architecture, specify the correct power, cabling and fibre requirements, to understanding UPS and generator sizing.
Many IT professionals learned on the job as new technology developments took hold. But lately, standards such as US TIA-942 or the European data centre standard EN 50600-x are becoming more widely adopted. There is also a trend to try and ensure energy efficiency while delivering uptime, through systems like intelligent power distribution units.
All of these trends are driving a need for training to ensure these data centre projects are delivering the value they expect.
Our data centre-focused courses typically last for three days and are suitable for network infrastructure consultants and installers, IT managers, data centre managers, electrical consultants, network infrastructure vendors and anyone working on a new network infrastructure project. Lately, participants have included some of Ireland’s largest IT integrators, telco and data centre operators, as well as IT and operations teams in sectors like financial services and manufacturing.
Our courses are based on international best practice and anyone who completes them successfully will receive a certification, as well as various certificates including BICSI continuing education, CIBSE continuing professional development, and European qualification framework accreditation.
As the world of IT changes, it’s time for IT professionals to adapt with it. Short, intensive and targeted training courses can equip them with knowledge to deliver value back to their business. Most importantly, they can apply these skills at the planning and design stage to avoid business disruption from unnecessary downtime.
|Training, little and often|
|“All too often the weakest link in any organisation is the human element. We recognise the need for continuous training for staff which is easy to administer”||
Webroot Adam Nash, EMEA sales manager
|A popular mantra when it comes to training is ‘little and often’. This is the best way to make training effective and ensure your staff stay abreast of technological and regulatory changes.
This is also true of security awareness training which needs to be bite-sized and targeted to those most in need. With the most wide ranging piece of legislation of recent years, GDPR, this need for training and awareness has wide reaching implications for the bottom line of every business with huge fines for non-compliance. Ensuring you have trained your staff is now actually a legal requirement. Modern day training companies need to ensure that training doesn’t become an onerous responsibility. Ease of management is key to making sure that training gets delivered continuously.
All too often the weakest link in any organisation is the human element. At Webroot, we recognise the need for continuous training for staff which is easy to administer. Our solution targets those most in need of improving their awareness of risk and also allows a business owner to ensure they can legally state they have trained their staff on new regulations.
Our Security Awareness Training solution will prevent staff from falling for common cybercrime tactics like phishing and social engineering and is regularly updated and adapted to reflect new threats that appear in the market. With a need for awareness of GDPR legislation and a need to train staff for industry specific regulations, ensuring you have a training solution in place is pretty much essential.
|Learn by doing approach|
|“While talent, skills and gender diversity are worldwide challenges for the tech sector, there is a shared ambition in Ireland to overcome them by creating an inclusive Smart Economy”||
FIT Aoife Sheehy, tech research and development officer
|With the prediction of almost 12,000 vacancies in the ICT sector across Ireland, the opportunities for growth are boundless. As the digital transformation captures the attention of companies nationwide, more and more roles are being created that demand tech skills. This is anticipated to grow as companies increasingly utilise technologies to manage activities, market their products, communicate with their customers and increase productivity. While talent, skills and gender diversity are worldwide challenges for the tech sector, there is a shared ambition in Ireland to overcome them by creating an inclusive Smart Economy.
To reflect the rapid pace of technology delivery and consumption, FastTrack to Information Technology (FIT) has developed Ireland’s New Tech Apprenticeship which adopts a ‘learn-by-doing’ format of ICT skills development, giving new meaning to the concept of ‘hire education’. As the value of the practical application of skills, knowledge and competencies are paramount, the tech industry is engaging with apprenticeships and dual-education initiatives to develop bespoke talent. This increased confidence on the part of tech employers in the capacity and credentials of Further Education and Training (FET) will significantly enhance the talent pipeline by widening access and diversifying recruitment.
Currently there are two individual Tech Apprenticeship programmes aimed at attracting candidates with an interest in software development or network engineering. Both programmes have significant on-the-job elements and were developed with the needs of industry in mind.
|New thinking, new ways|
|“Short, intense courses help employees to put their new skills into practice at a faster pace than those who undergo more formal part time training course”||
Singlepoint Niamh O’Connor, client services manager
|At Singlepoint, we are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to support our clients. We are constantly up skilling our teams to keep up to date with new technology trends. We have seen a change in the training industry, there are now more specialised technology training courses on offer.
To keep our employees up to date, we are focusing on sending our teams to short intense training courses. This helps our teams to become fully immersed and focused on the training that they are receiving. These intense courses help our employees to put their new skills into practice at a faster pace than those who undergo more formal part time training course.It is great to see that the training industry is using a variety of training methods when delivering their training courses. We have used courses that use a combination of online, classroom and workshop lead courses to cater for most learnings needs. There is additional support from the training industry towards employees who are juggling a full-time job while upskilling in their spare time. The introduction of been able to attend webinars instead of being onsite at the lectures has assisted many part time students.As a company, we are constantly learning and look for new ways of working. We look for training courses that give real life examples, this helps our employees to get some perspective on what they are learning and how they could potentially put it into practice. It is important that courses are no longer just delivered via one person doing all of the talking and giving the information, there needs to be discussion, case studies and putting your learnings into practice as part of a course. The training industry has been able to capture this new method of learning to help get people up to speed on a faster level than before.Technology is ever changing, the speed at which we are delivering and consuming technology is not slowing down. With this speed there is a real thirst for knowledge and information for what is coming next. I believe that the training industry is trying to get that information by aligning itself with industry experts and top performing companies.www.singlepoint.ie
|Learning environments evolving|
|“The traditional classroom is still a core method for skills development for over 40% of our respondents, but flexibility and anytime access will continue to evolve for today’s learners”||
Global Knowledge Steven Purcell, country manager Ireland
|With increasing workloads, 24×7 access, and limited job role backup, companies need a way to build skills and develop expertise while maintaining day-to-day responsibilities. A recent Global Knowledge report highlights that while Cloud and Cybersecurity are the top interest areas for upskilling; increasingly organisations are seeking skills in AI, DevOps and Blockchain to build out the next generation of Digital Services. The traditional classroom is still a core method for skills development for over 40% of our respondents, but flexibility and anytime access will continue to evolve for today’s learners. With over 20 years of experience delivering learning solutions, Global Knowledge have developed three new flexible delivery formats to meet changing market requirements.
These formats combine the expert direction of instructor-led training and the flexibility of on-demand learning while designing the learning platforms of the future, enabling you to close critical skills gaps more effectively while allowing you to choose when and where you train.
As technology continues to evolve, agile organisations and professionals will find success. IT professionals who are well-skilled are best prepared to take initiative and solve critical business problems, and be compensated handsomely.
|Is the IT function really ready for digital transformation?|
|“A business does not change by itself just because it uses IT. It is time to see technology for what it is: a set of tools that enables us to change a business model fundamentally”||
Cloud Credential Council Mark O’Loughlin, managing director
|When we use the phrase ‘digital disruption’, we arguably pay too much attention to the ‘digital’ part and not enough to the ‘disruption’. Our eyes instinctively focus on the technology, but a business does not change by itself just because it uses IT. It is time to see technology for what it is: a set of tools that enables us to change a business model fundamentally.
While businesses everywhere grapple with the implications of transforming through technology, this trend has huge ramifications for IT professionals. They have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to move up the value chain in their organisation. Now that technology is easier to adopt than ever, IT professionals must make the transition from managing IT to managing how the business uses IT.
But if IT wants to lead, first it needs to learn. The type of education I mean is very different from training to upskill on the latest version of a specific technology. Instead, it’s about learning to look at technology from a strategic perspective and learn how to apply it to solve a specific business problem.
To truly get the benefits of any technology, I believe it’s important to understand the business context first. For example, it’s relatively easy to adopt a technology like the cloud, but some organisations aren’t achieving the gains they expected. In theory, moving to the cloud shifts IT spending from a capex investment to OpEx cost. But because the cloud makes IT capacity agile and on demand, it’s easy for the business to consume more of it – and invariably it does. This drives IT costs up, but who pays? Does the IT function have the ability to bill the business for the extra capacity it uses? And what happens to the traditional IT budget?
After seeing questions like these recur, the Cloud Credential Council began developing a series of vendor-neutral certifications aimed at educating IT professionals in domains such as IoT, big data and cloud. These certifications cover foundation-level courses through to advanced-level programmes that provide a high-level, business-oriented understanding of technology. Our certifications are accessible around the world, and many of them have a self-study component. We design them to complement existing vendor training, not to compete with it: our certifications serve as a layer on top that gives IT professionals the techniques to take that deep understanding of the technology and apply it to solving a business challenge.
Now we pose a question of our own, asking IT professionals ‘R U Digital Ready?’, because to be prepared for digital transformation means understanding all of the business and technical implications. The IT function can become a broker for the many services a business may want to use, whether that is in cloud, IoT, or artificial intelligence. That’s a powerful role, but it needs IT professions to evolve first, so they can understand all of the options available to the business, and recommend the right tool based on the business goal.
By knowing where technology can unlock value in the business – and being able to communicate that in business terms to leadership and the board – IT professionals can make a meaningful contribution to the strategic direction of the business, rather than simply be told where it’s going.
Today, technology training is still very important, as digital technologies continue to change and evolve. What is less recognised is: upskilling IT professionals to deliver value from digital technologies is a necessity yet remains a significant and often overlooked gap. Focusing on the technology alone will not deliver digital success, digital innovation or digital value; it will only deliver new technology.So, ask yourself one simple question: RU Digital Ready? to deliver digital value.