“To change the conversation, we have to change who is part of it”

Employability and e-Learning

Budget constraints have largely been blamed for the decline in training provision in the employability sector. We often hear “It’s not about training anymore.”.

Really? So just how are we getting people ready for the job market?

Enter e-Learning where providers throughout the land sourced the cheapest learning management system they could find. But far from using this as a means of creating and delivering quality programmes, most simply ticked all the compliance boxes – induction – health and safety -disclaimer – job done!

Developments in technology are dramatically changing the way training is delivered and e-Learning is by far the biggest change agent and the employability sector should ignore it at its peril.

Gone are the days when it was left to the skill of the training manager to produce an online course. Research into how we learn combined with technology advances and engagement tools are radically transforming the learning world and that can mean greater efficiency and cost effectiveness for providers.

The landscape in 2017

In the past year or so we've all witnessed changes we thought unimaginable a few months before. However, the impact on training in the employability sector is negligible and it still lags far behind the learning initiatives taken in larger organisations in the private sector. This is especially true of staff training.

  • Businesses need quantifiable results. Training must provide a clear-cut return-on-investment. Employability providers must stop using e-Learning to tick boxes and start thinking like entrepreneurs.

  • Training has not become more effective. Existing classroom training has simply been re-packaged on e-Learning platforms. There are many examples of jobseeker ‘handouts’ being uploaded and labelled e-Learning. This just makes them LESS effective. Some ‘courses’ are simply boring and badly designed PowerPoint presentations with monotone narration.

  • Training still uses a confetti approach. Providers 'throw' training over participants in one session and hoping some of it sticks. “You’ve all had a chance to read through the magnificent set of 127 handouts we have online so ………..”

  • Customers still see training as something to be endured. It’s seen as part of the programme they are attending rather than a bonus to be enjoyed.

So what can change this approach in the employability sector?

Retention methods

People retain very little of what they learn at any learning event. This may be as little as ten percent. Experienced trainers know that short, sharp training bursts work better but that’s not always possible in pre-determined attendance plan. A blended learning approach can encourage customers to take in bite sized chunks of learning in their own time and their own environment. However, whilst this form of activity may be random to them it still needs to be part of a plan that meets all the learning objectives.

Memory experts acknowledge that short-term memory copes with around four concepts. Using short bursts of learning—anything from 60 seconds to 60 minutes helps to increase retention.

Mobile learning

Unemployed or not, a very high percentage of customers will have a Smartphone. It makes sense to deliver learning to on a platform that is integral to the learner’s personal and professional lifestyle. That said, staring at a Smartphone screen for long periods is not conducive to good learning but there are many ways that mobile learning is extremely effective:

  • Preparation prior to attending a session. Getting a lot of the donkey work out of the way for an assessment is easier for the customer and saves time and money for the provider.

  • ‘Just-in-time’ learning to deal with a specific situation like the introduction of a new process or procedure. Programmes and legislation change regularly. Mobile learning not only conveys the message but enables you to see that it has been read.

  • Reinforcement after a learning event which could be by providing key summaries. That seminar on interview techniques went well so why not create a quirky checklist.

Social Media

People often learn as much from one another as they do from a training session and these days, social networks are a way of life to many people.

Incorporating Social Media into a core training strategy has may benefits, including:

  • Using Facebook to build learning communities.

  • Using Twitter for introductions, pre-training preparation and instruction, conversations, debates, reflecting, brainstorming, and polls

  • Using YouTube for training videos

  • Creating blogs for additional learning information

  • Creating wikis for learning resources


Gamification is proving to be one of the most important measures to get people eager to learn, and continue to learn. For some reason, the employability sector has been unable to take fun seriously!

In addition to being fun, gamification offers other key benefits:

  • It can engage learners of all ages.

  • The fun aspect creates less resistance to learning.

  • It can be used to teach a variety of subjects.

  • It’s suited to different aspects of learning, including knowledge, skills, attitudes, and beliefs.

  • It encourages experimentation, which often leads to innovative thinking.

  • It’s less stressful than traditional learning with lectures and formal tests.

  • It can be used to encourage a competitive spirit and teamwork.

A gamification strategy might include video games, games of chance, role play and adventure, simulations, building and construction, or puzzles. Creating these interactions is becoming easier than you might think with a number of software solutions on the market.


Learning is an individual experience, but training has traditionally been conducted in groups. It is now possible to implement a more personalised approach to training, based on each individual’s unique competencies and learning preferences.

A criticism of many employability programmes is that they offer a ‘one size fits all’ solution. Even simple techniques like opening an online resource by greeting the user with their first name can lead to better retention.

Another method is to use current affairs. Have you ever noticed how Google change their logo to reflect what’s happening in the world? This tiny change has paid dividends.

Personalisation considers:

  • The learner's preferred method of learning. One person’s video is another’s book but do you offer both?

  • Their current knowledge and what specific knowledge, skills, and attitudes are required. What learning can be skipped, and what needs to be repeated?

  • Generational, cultural or language considerations that need to be addressed. Modern learning management systems can cope with most languages and translation has never been cheaper to arrange.

"The only thing worse than training your staff and having them leave is not training them and having them stay."
Zig Ziglar

Paul Wolstencroft is an independent marketing and e-Learning consultant with over twenty years’ experience in the employability sector specialising in self-employment. Paul can be contacted via his website at

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