published on 13/06/2016 by John Edmonds

Training Providers – they are not all the same!

(even when they seem to be selling the same course)

John Edmonds
John Edmonds, Director of Strategy and Marketing and Head of Training at pearcemayfield

Making a decision on which training provider to use is usually quite important. If you are an individual you have to consider the financial impact, time off work and the convenience of the location. If you are a corporate buyer of training services, there are other considerations around ongoing relationships with suppliers, confidentiality and levels of support.

Your choice of training provider, and how you go about making that choice is extremely important. It requires wisdom to choose the best training for your own needs, or your organisational needs. It is also wise not to take the first option that you find (Google placings mean very little; despite what they will tell us).
It is essential to remember that not all training providers are the same, even if they seem to operate in the same market, selling the same product.

Let’s take the market for PRINCE2 Practitioner training courses. PRINCE2 is a globally recognised method for running projects and the PRINCE2 Practitioner qualification is a very well-known standard for project managers.
There are a number of different companies that are formally accredited by the awarding bodies and who offer a PRINCE2 Practitioner course. And, if you are successful in your exams, you will end up with a PRINCE2 qualification, no matter who you choose as your provider. So, they are all the same aren’t they?

No, no and no again! The PRINCE2 training market is more complex and dynamic than you might imagine. Suppliers come and go, some with good credentials, others with a poorer history. The aims and objectives of suppliers vary too, and it is wise to ensure that whoever you choose has a good ‘fit’ with your objectives.
The fact that a provider is ‘accredited’ actually means very little. I’m afraid that the standards they need to meet are of the lowest common denominator variety. Things that you and I might consider important may not be subject to any quality standard in the accreditation process. Let me give you some examples from stories that have been reported to me.

It is well known that the class size on a course is a key factor in the learning process and can affect how successful the training is. It is generally accepted that around 12 is a useful maximum to work to (not precisely, but a good indicator of a good group size). I have heard stories of some PRINCE2 training providers running groups in excess of 30 people.

Group dynamics are also important, as we can learn a tremendous amount from other delegates in our discussions with them, either in class or at break times, meal times and so on. Now imagine a course where spread around the room were laptops on which people are ‘skyped’ into the course, amongst real delegates sitting in the room. I know that I would find that incredibly distracting, wouldn’t you?

One of the real benefits of a classroom-based course, with a real-life expert trainer, is the opportunity to question and challenge the method being taught. Whenever I deliver a PRINCE2 course the most fulfilling parts of the event are when I respond to questions and comments from delegates, because I know that I am then addressing parts of PRINCE2 that they have a concern or query about. So, imagine being on a course where the person leading the event tells you (because they have been instructed to do so by the training provider) that no questions are allowed! “The only way we will get through this is if you sit and listen carefully all week…” I think I would leave straight away.

I think it is easy to see that the aims and objectives of some suppliers are to get as many people as possible though the course in order to make as much money as possible by providing as little as possible in terms of a quality event. If you want cheap, I am afraid you will invariably get nasty.

Other training supplier horror stories include:
•   Driving down the cost of freelance trainers to a level that is out of all proportion to the skills and experience of the trainers. Think supermarkets and farmers driven out of business because of not being able to cover their production costs.
•   Providing no refreshments during the course. Anyone with a hint of learning theory knowledge knows that the housekeeping elements of the course (food, lighting, room arrangements) play a vital part in the overall success of the event.
•   Not sending delegates any pre-course work or the PRINCE2 manual in order to keep costs down. This penny-pinching denies delegates the chance to adequately prepare, and essential part of a course like PRINCE2.
•   Advertising courses they have no intention of running. This amazing approach aims to undercut genuine providers by offering a cheap course at the same time and place, then having taken the booking, transfer the delegate to another venue and date with no refund options allowed. I struggled to believe anyone would do this until I read about it in a national newspaper – it’s true!

Oh dear, I have just realised that I have painted a rather grim picture of the PRINCE2 training market. Well. It’s not all like this. There are some excellent training providers that I would work for at a moment’s notice (if I didn’t already work for one of them – think ‘if Carlsberg did PRINCE2 training…’).

Seriously, training providers are not all the same.

I don’t want you to think that you are going to get a ‘Carlsberg’ experience and you end up with a ‘Trotter’s Independent Trading’ one!

Please, check before you buy. If it looks too cheap to be true, I can guarantee it is exactly that. On the other hand, quality will not have to cost you the earth. The good ones are not charging extortionate amounts.
Just make sure that you have confidence before you buy…