Those sitting at the back

In the training courses for operators of machinery and equipment we meet users with the most diverse experiences and stories and knowing how to recognise each trainee’s bend by interpreting their attitudes is very important for properly setting up and leading a training session.

There is the “tourist” who takes part in the course because in the company somebody told him to go there, at that time, and he knows that he will have to spend his time listening to someone who talks about topics that he is convinced he is already familiar with or that, even worse, he is not interested in. He is armed with a smartphone that he will try in vain to use to stay in touch with his world and estrange himself from the reality that surrounds him. He prefers to sit in the last row at the back of the class and he will be the one asking the first question of the day: “What time do we finish?”.

There is the “expert” who already knows everything, ever since he started working, when he was a child. His experience has taught him so much that no training course will ever be able to match. So he has nothing to learn, but a lot to teach. He usually takes his seat at the front of the class and stretches out, as if he were on a deckchair, and he will ask the second question of the day: “What time do we have lunch?”.

There is the one who thinks he’s smart and participates in the course thinking he could go to the secretary, sign a form and collect the certificate “without wasting time”. He doesn’t even enter the classroom or he suddenly disappears as he immediately realises that he’s in the wrong place.

There is the “technician” who will carefully follow every word the trainer says and add details to every topic of the programme. He will be asking the third question of the day: “Will you provide a training book?” (he hasn’t noticed, yet, that the binder handed out at the entrance contains all the documentation and much more).

In all course sessions there is always “the latecomer”
Because the alarm clock didn’t sound, because they only told him this morning that today there is a course, because the car didn’t start or because he missed the bus or, simply, because he does not care so much but he is obliged to stay there, but he would never admit it.

There is also the invisible participant, the one who simply forgot that he had to participate in the course. When receiving a phone call made to make sure that he was coming, he inevitably admits that he has forgotten and that he will try to “come tomorrow” as if a Training Centre were a supermarket.

And finally, there is the interested, often shy, user, who is always very polite, walks silently and looks in the classroom for a place that is strictly from the second row backwards, preferably to the sides. He participates diligently, confident of receiving from the training some cognitive elements that can add value and safety to his job. This is the most numerous and gratifying type of trainee for the trainer, he is the one who will try with his questions to deeply analyse even the details, without being ashamed of his initial lack of knowledge.

From an operational point of view it is essential that the class is formed by a few people
Experience shows that the optimal number for a professional training course in the use of machinery and equipment is four to five people. It is relevant to point out that the Merlo Training and Research Centre, the most innovative in Italy, has provided training courses in the first half of 2019 with an average of only three participants per session.

Offering effective professional training is a great challenge for the trainers
Both because they have professionals in front of them – who, because of their knowledge or experience, already know, or should know, the training topics – and because all participants always start with the conviction that those who are in front of them to explain the theory do not really know anything about the practice. This is because it is too common practice for the classroom teacher to be a different person from the hands-on training instructor.
And then, just to refute this fact, a great added value is offered by the courses in which the teacher is also an excellent training instructor.
An example of this scenario could be the teachers that still have a vivid memory of the time when they got up at an ungodly hour to follow the work shift from the very beginning and learn in the real context all the implications of any activities, grasping the significant aspects to be enhanced for safety purposes.
For this reason, when these teachers/instructors get into the heart of training in machinery use, many of the presumed certainties that the trainees had at the beginning disappear and the courses usually last much longer than planned, also delaying the necessary final tests that determine the success of the training.

The “tourist” is usually the last one to leave because he has learned and seen so many things that he must have taken advantage now – if not now, when?

“The expert” discovers that his great and hard-earned experience unfortunately made him lose pace with the technological development of the machines and already at the first approach with the new means he has struggled to find the switch for the ignition key and discovers that levers and handles have been replaced by joysticks and push-buttons.
He ate the lunch he was anxiously waiting for distractedly, thinking of how many times he made it despite the mistakes made while saying “Never mind, I’ve always done it like this and I never had an injury”. And when he finally got out of the cab, he did it the only way you’re sure to get hurt – facing outwards.

The “technician” resigned himself because he discovered that there is someone who knows at least as much as he does and will never admit having learned something new.

Even the shyest trainee found out that he had a voice and during the hands-on part, more at ease, he caught many details that had escaped him thanks to the answers to his questions.
He is the one who most understood the importance and added value of training and will testify to his employer that “the time spent was worth it”.

You can’t just turn yourself into a trainer
And it is also deeply wrong to bring it all down to a pure commercial fact because the trainees’ negative judgement will confirm the inevitable failure of this practice.

Training with high added value requires seriousness, competence, organisation, specific structures and great experience.
Maybe that’s why, unfortunately, I know only one Centre in Italy that has a course satisfaction index that exceeds 99 percent.