Despite all the talk about doom and gloom in the economy in 2008, recruiters say the jobs market for training and learning and development specialists is robust, and should stay that way.
Even though there have been forecasts of a slowing economy, the outlook for learning and development (L&D) professionals seeking a new role in 2008 is positive, according to specialist recruiters and training providers.
At Capita Learning and Development, director of UK learning Chris Sharp says there’s a “strong job market, where experienced trainers are being approached all the time.”
He says employers’ attitudes towards L&D have changed since the last economic downturn, when many regarded training as a cost centre to be slashed during hard times. “It’s very rare that we work with organisations today that see training as a luxury. L&D is now regarded as vital in driving efficiencies and developing key people,” he says.
And while he admits there is less demand for trainers who offer process-driven learning, such as inductions and IT training, people who can “add value and transform businesses” and play a “key role in workforce development” are now sought after.
But to take advantage of this healthy market, L&D professionals must be able see beyond the delivery element and demonstrate a strategic sense of how L&D can contribute. “There are fewer roles advertised for specific subject matters, and more asking for ‘L&D advisers’ and ‘L&D consultants’ who can work as business partners and empower line managers to grow their teams,” Sharp adds.
Paul McMurtie, managing director of specialist L&D recruitment company Essence Resourcing, agrees.
He says more and more employers want trainers who can show commercial know-how and who can talk about their experience of demonstrating return on investment on the training they have delivered. “Candidates are having to fight their corner these days,” he says.
“Whatever the training that is being delivered – be it sales training, management development, or customer service – L&D professionals are now required to put in parameters that demonstrate a payback.”
McMurtie advises L&D professionals who want to up their market value to start putting in place these methodologies in their current role, so when they start looking for a new job they can show they have the necessary experience.
He says: “The perfect candidate is someone who can talk about development projects they have managed and how they brought demonstrable benefits to their organisation – rather than someone who says: ‘I’d quite like the chance to do this in my next job’.”
McMurtie, who recruits for roles throughout the UK, says pay for L&D professionals remains stable and ranges from mid-£20,000s for a good sales trainer to six figure sums for high-level training directors. He reports little regional difference in pay levels, except for the capital, where London weighting ensures salaries are slightly higher.
There again, public sector salaries are likely to be lower. For example, an L&D manager’s job with Reliance Care, a public sector operation in north London, was recently advertised at £36,500. By comparison, a training assistant’s job in the City of London, through agency Joslin Rowe, was offered last month at £35,000.
At the top end, recruitment agency HR International was recently looking for a head of learning and development at an IT company in Dublin with a salary of up to £80,000 offered.
In south-west England, Neil Andrews, associate director of the L&D practice at Hays HR, also reports a healthy job market, with particular demand for management development and talent succession expertise.
He has also noticed an increase in organisations looking for people with executive coaching skills to “develop senior managers to lead their teams more effectively.” He says: “I am seeing more L&D professionals who have taken coaching qualifications in the market today.”
Sharp says other specialist skills that make training and L&D professionals more marketable include being able to design e-learning tools, plus knowing how intranets and message boards can be used to deliver learning.
He says there’s a demand for professionals with experience in managing informal learning and who know how this can be effectively monitored and recorded.
He adds: “Companies are interested in developing networks where individuals can gather information, and they want L&D professionals to help guide and coach people in how to use these properly.”
Soft skills training
The popularity of schemes such as the Learning and Skills Council-backed Train to Gain, and other government-funded initiatives to raise basic skills and get people back to work, is fuelling a rise in the demand for training professionals who can deliver soft skills training, according to Kate Fisher, the business manager at Reed Training Professionals.
She says many businesses and organisations are taking advantage of the ready-availability of government funding in this area, and that trainers who can deliver learning in CV writing and literacy skills, as well as anti-bullying awareness and confidence-building, should find work easier to come by in 2008.
“We are finding it hard to find candidates who have specialised in specific soft skills. A lot of trainers have diversified but these roles require people who have one area of expertise, be it CV writing or presentation skills,” Fisher says. So great is the demand that Reed is considering launching a service specifically targeted at recruiting professionals for government-funded training roles.
Fisher adds: “The vacancies are across the board. There’s an equal split between in-house positions and those working for external providers, while some positions are training delegates and other ‘train the trainer’ roles.”