Jobs in training go from famine to feast

After a downturn in the job market several years ago, recruitment specialists are reporting a rise in training and learning and development job vacancies in the past year.

Tina Suttle-Smith, a manager at recruitment firm Executive Performers, says in the past year – and especially since January – there has been a surge in demand for people-development specialists, particularly those with niche skills such as neuro linguistic programming (NLP) and psychometric testing expertise.

This trend has been particularly noticeable in the interim market, she says, with companies seeking senior interims who have extensive experience in this area. Many organisations prefer interims as they can be paid on a daily basis and their expertise can be used as and when required.

At recruitment firm Joslin Rowe, Kris Sasitharan, manager of the HR division, has also seen increasing demand for training professionals.
In demand

According to Sasitharan, there is a particular demand from smaller financial services companies in the City, which have boomed over the past few years. Many want to recruit a dedicated training professional to develop their managers.

Training based on new regulations in the financial services sector is also driving growth, he says. The type of trainer he is “struggling to represent” at the moment is what he calls the “technical trainer” – those who have specialised in specific areas of development, be it legal, insurance or sales training.

What companies are after, he says, are more rounded learning and development professionals who can offer experience in delivering training in areas such as presentation skills, people management and recruitment and selection.

At London-based HR recruitment company Beament Leslie Thomas, head of HR recruitment, Paul Grafton, says a demand for industry-specific training professionals remains.

“Many industry areas, such as financial services, retail and professional services, prefer to employ people who understand their sector,” he says.

According to Grafton, the current job scene for learning and development professionals is vastly improved from the downturn period of 2001-03, when many faced redundancy.

But, he says, with the upturn, there still aren’t as many traditional training and development positions, as more businesses look to L&D professionals to drive organisational development.

“Companies are investing in the development of their people, and with businesses undergoing change, employee transformation and coaching experience are key,” says Grafton.

“Companies’ demands for such specific experience can make it difficult for some traditional stand-up training professionals to find suitable opportunities.”

Adding value

Training professionals are also increasingly being expected to show they can add value to an organisation, says Stuart Lowry, training development director at training company Capita Learning and Development.

“There is a demand not just for innovative training techniques but for people who can run training like a business and demonstrate return on investment from their activities,” he says.

Those who can also show a strong business understanding are also well placed to find a job. Specific skills in demand include communications at board level, management development, coaching and leadership training.

“There has been a shift in demand from straight design and delivery to working in partnership with specific business units and aligning to business deliverables,” says Suttle-Smith.

The salaries training professionals can expect to earn range from £25,000 in a charity through to £70,000-£90,000 for training mangers in large blue-chip companies. Experienced interim trainers can command a day rate of £400-plus.

And while the perks offered as part of a package differ from organisation to organisation, some larger firms have considered offering a performance bonus. Some interims have received completion bonuses for achieving key objectives.

As far as regional variations in pay go, Suttle-Smith says they are diminishing as salaries and day rates are being driven by a levelling out of the property market. “It is now as expensive to live and work in the South West as it is in central London,” she says.

The continuous development of a trainer’s skillset

At training company Capita Learning and Development, training development director Stuart Lowry says the expectations of what a training manager should bring to an organisation are rising. “Today their role is much fuller than simply the design and delivery of training,” he says.

Key skills for today’s training manager include the management of external suppliers, finding expertise, procurement and tendering and quality assurance.

“Many trainers engage with external training organisations and they have to know what they are looking for and how best to set up a deal,” says Lowry.

More and more organisations want their internal development courses accredited, so experience in dealing with accrediting bodies is also attractive, he says.

Being able to show you are used to the rigours of financial management and that you will run a learning function like an internal business is also a plus. “Some organisations are even looking to sell their course externally,” says Lowry.

by Ross Bentley

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