Yesterday I talked about the changing approach being taken regarding University education. In the commercial world there has been a serious reduction in training at all job levels in companies. It has been determined that employee training is a discretionary expense. It can be deferred or discontinued.
Back in the 1990’s we started many of the equipment manufacturers stopped providing management training. It was costing too much money. We made the determination then that we could fill the void they left. We started our training business Quest, Learning Centers, Inc then. We felt that it was much more costly to have untrained employees than it was to spend money training them.
We were going along building the business and having some successes when the infamous 9/11 hit the economy. That put a serious hit on everything that involved travel. First it gave the traveler a cause to think about what they were doing. Then there was the added inconvenience of the travel and the cost. This hit the training business hard. People just stopped coming to our classes. Well we adjusted and adapted and slowly the business came back to life. We were rolling along quite nicely with 25 to 30 participants in each of our classes when the 2008 economic calamity hit.
We have gone through another move in the economic cycle, this one a very serious one. We were living on credit everywhere at a much too large degree. This was true for private citizens, companies and all levels of government. This was encouraged by easy money provided to consumers at interest rates kept artificially low by the Federal Reserve. It was exacerbated by legislators in changes to collateralization rules and banks who created exotic financial instruments, all of which became a house of cards and ultimately collapsed. We are still in a very serious situation, whether it be the age demographics in Japan, which will lead to a large reduction in the internal savings that has always funded Japan, to excessive government spending in Europe where in France more than 50% of the Gross Domestic Product of the country is taken by the federal government spending, to the US where uncertainty seems to be the calling card of the current economic and political landscape.
This caused the training business to explore even less expensive means for employees to have to learn because business was cutting back on employee training spending yet again. The classroom learning experience was deemed to be too expensive. Take out the travel and you can have a training experience that delivers results just as well as in the classroom if you use technology. This built a training experience called a Webinar. An instructor talks to a computer or a telephone with the computer screen of the instructor visible to students around the world on the phone watching the same screen and listening to the instructor talk and transfer knowledge. To a teacher, which I was at one point in my career, this was a false altar that was being worshipped. The learning component was overlooked as long as management could check a box that they provided training. Management never considered that the learning experience was degraded. You couldn’t see the students you didn’t know if they were paying attention, you didn’t know if they understood the messages. It was a false altar. Then technology has moved the bar. Now you can have an audio video learning experience so that now the students on the call can be seen and it can be interactive. This is progress but it is still quite early and as such I don’t want to conclude that this is the answer.
Next is the internet. This is the vehicle for which I have high hopes. We are currently developing a series of internet based self-study programs which we will start rolling out this year. I will explore that delivery vehicle in the next discussion we have on education. The time is now.