Training Needs Analysis

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Introduction

As Robert F. Mager states:

Instruction is designed to fill a need... the world of instruction has changed from the days when instruction followed the lecture-in-the-morning-lab-in-the-afternoon approach and the only tools in the instructor’s tool kit were the lecture, the lab, and on-the-job training (OJT). It has changed from the days when instructors were selected because they were good at their specialty, whether or not they knew anything about communicating that specialty to others. It has changed from the days when instructors were allowed to teach as much about a subject as time would allow, regardless of the relevance of the content to the need of the individual students.


Furthermore... today, the role of training (also called instruction) has acquired a much broader perspective regarding:

a) the training level (national, institutional, program/project), and

b) the time-scale (short, medium, long-term).

Likewise, the training process itself and the outcome of training, are important elements to be considered.


Training and Capacity Building start with Training Needs Analysis (TNA)

Training Needs Analysis (TNA), is a basic function of training and the first building block in the planning of training initiatives. It is recognized as an essential element in the process of training as well as a powerful Capacity Development tool. Conceptually and in practice, TNA goes beyond the needed diagnosis of specific Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes (K/S/A) required to design and implement any training activity.


Different needs at different organisational levels

The assessment of training needs should distinguish between various levels in a country or region. Training needs at the national level must take into account the overall goals of the national authority(s) in the field of Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) and the training priorities as perceived by different agencies dealing with various aspects of coastal and marine matters. Most probably, commonalities may arise in terms of priority training as identified by the different players. These potential synergies should be exploited in order to avoid duplication and waste of resources.

There may be opportunities for regional cooperation where countries face similar problems and issues and thus, region-training, based on regional and sub-regional institutions may be more successful than out of region training, since issues and lessons tend to be more similar than those in other parts of the world.

For different levels in an organisation the training needs will be different, e.g. policy training for high level decision-makers to technical training and basic skill development geared to operational personnel. Another benefit of assessing training needs at various levels in a country or a region, is that different training activities can be designed to deal with training needs at different levels. Further opportunities for synergy between different capacity development efforts may exist, such as linking training priorities at different levels, which could be of great help for integrating training courses under the umbrella of a major training strategy.


Other aspects of TNA

A skilful TNA calls for a parallel diagnosis of the institutional requirements to meet the identified training needs and the necessary mechanisms for the coordination of the different training activities. This falls within the area of management of training together with the necessary monitoring and evaluation of the training effort (in the short and long-term).

The timing of the TNA also plays a key role in the definition of needs and priorities. Experience shows that, in some cases, training effectiveness have been hampered by the failure to assess training needs at early stages of a project. If training needs are identified later at the implementation phase, this may result into ad hoc courses that respond only to short-term needs, and that are not fully integrated into the long-term goals of the project and may not provide the needed problem solving capabilities and implementation solutions that are required to attend to particular circumstances. In addition, a short-term perspective has been found to be an ineffective way to create a permanent training structure that may provide useful training in the long term.

There are several methods for undertaking a TNA. It can be done e.g. through surveys, problem analysis, job analysis or direct discussions with users of training (e.g. project personnel). Two are the key issues to keep in mind:

1. that training emphasizes the linkages between learning and doing (e.g. focus on problem solving capabilities that enables the trainees to immediately apply what was learned into their job environment); and

2. that training goes hand-in-hand with management. Periodic consultation between user agencies (e.g. the public and private sectors) and the providers of training, will enhance benefits in terms of anticipating and later implementing a realistic training strategy truly responsive to today's and to future training needs.


Further reading


The main author of this article is Vallejo, Stella Maris
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.

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