Skills gaps provide two core challenges for training professionals: identifying them and plugging them. That’s where skills auditing software comes into its own.
Although it may expose and highlight shortcomings, it can also help individuals find out where their strengths and weaknesses lie and identify training needs. Skills auditing software can also be used in staff selection.
One such product is SkillUpNow (SNow), the fruit of a joint venture between e-learning technology and solutions provider In2itive and Axia Interactive Media, a skills assessment specialist.
SNow allows users to audit their skillset via a series of diagnostic questions. They can then click through to video-based online learning programmes to help fill the skills gaps.
“The system is content-independent,” says Darren Humber, head of sales at In2itive. “You can build in any third-party learning content that you want. Or you could take a training programme that you’ve produced, video it, and then put it into the system.”
Any activity carried out by the user while in the SNow environment is logged in an online diary so there is a record of each individual’s skills audit and any learning activity.
SNow is designed for training organisations that offer support to the long-term unemployed, or those who want to change their careers. It is currently being piloted by Edinburgh University Settlement Community Learning Centre. But its core technology has applications for anyone working in training.
Individuals first carry out an assessment of their skills using the diagnostic tools. Competence in a range of areas such as time management, assertiveness, decision-making, problem-solving and managing change can all be tested.
The exercises are designed to be fun, says Axia business strategy director Chris Peat. For instance, when assessing assertiveness, questions include: ‘If I was short-changed by 10p, I would…’
“So often, programmes simply replicate what you can do on paper,” says Peat. “We’ve tried to make them interesting, engaging and interactive.”
Based on the results of the audit, a user can create their own ‘action plan’ online, which is typically discussed with a mentor at the training centre.
This can then be turned into a more formal personal development plan.
Although the e-videos are likely to form just one part of the action plan, they provide an immediate way for a user to acquire skills in a particular area. Within SNow, the core e-video content includes courses on crisis management, emotional intelligence, performance reviews and presentation skills. All are less than 30 minutes long. Supporting material includes transcripts, study notes, discussion points and quizzes.
One of the chief aims of the e-videos is to give training centres a tool that acknowledges that everybody learns at a different pace, says Humber. “The videos are sectionalised with logical stopping points and all the material can be printed,” he says.
Although it is designed for training organisations, many of which support government initiatives to help the long-unemployed back to work, SNow’s technology has clear applications for the corporate arena and the training community in general.
Axia’s Now.net diagnostic and assessment platform is used by several assessment centres and professional bodies, with the latter using it to help support continuing professional development (CPD). In2itive’s online content delivery and management tool, In2medium, is also in wider use.
It is the technology behind a recently announced partnership with jobs website Monster UK, which will see soft-skills video training delivered directly to jobseekers’ desktops.
If similar partnerships are struck, it will mean that more and more individuals are actually accessing the training they need before taking up positions, which can only be good news.
by Sue Weekes
Case study: EUS
Edinburgh University Settlement (EUS) Community Learning Centre is a charity that helps long-term unemployed people who want to improve their skills and qualifications and, therefore, job prospects. Typically they will be assigned to the centre for 26 weeks.
EUS is a pilot user of SNow and is using it for a group of individuals of mixed academic ability. During that time users can log on to the system and carry out a skills audit.
“This enables them to look at what they’ve achieved and what they’d like to achieve,” says EUS qualifications manager Terry Ward. “They’ve found the diagnostic tools easy to use and like them because they are not influenced by a human factor – the system doesn’t have a preconceived idea about them or any kind of agenda.”
It also saves the centre considerable time, says Ward, because previously they would have had to carry out the skills assessments via an interview. “This can be quite a long process and an individual can lose interest.”