D-PAD: A checklist for framing training content and delivering sustainable results

The Arab uprisings are the clearest indicator to date of the region’s need for more and better jobs, better matches between what goes into education and comes out to the workforce, and restoring a sense of value to skilled and semi-skilled jobs critical to maintaining a well-functioning social and physical infrastructure.

While there is much emphasis on the integrating digital technology into training methodologies, a more effective approach focuses not only on the tools, but on the solutions. In the US alone, there are three million jobs waiting to be filled by people with the rights skills and the motivation to work and to work in new locations. Just as there must be an eco-system for entrepreneurship to thrive, a similar eco-system must be constructed for workers so that they add value to the process as products and services are brought to market.

So, not being fluent in I-PAD, I thought it might be useful to derive a framework, which I call D-PAD, to focus attention on the key content and context (environmental) issues in any skills-centric/jobs program. It is a checklist that will guide various stakeholders (potential employers, decision-makers, regulators, reformers, trainers, students, management, consumers, etc.) to smart decisions for defining content and context for recruiting and motivating the current and next generation of skilled workers.

First caveat: this thinking is not ground-breaking. I’m taking the charts, models, and paradigms of some top companies and translating them into something that hopefully is easy to digest without a consultant’s playbook. Second caveat: although this posting reflects the work of companies in Middle East and North Africa, the concern for more effective and durable training solutions is global and touches all levels and sectors of public policy and economic development.

 D-PAD is actually 5D-PAD.

In my experience, to begin the process of corralling market needs into a sustainable training regime, there are five steps:

  1. Define the goals as precisely as possible and include as many stakeholders as possible from the private and public sectors, and the institutions
  2. Discover the factors that promote and inhibit the goals (SWOT works) and discuss timeframes and constituencies that are relevant to the process
  3. Determine priorities, resources, and various cost-benefit parameters including gender, urban/rural, minorities, accessibility, and other relevant issues that influence decision choices; get sign-off from funders/regulators
  4. Design the learning objectives for both hard and soft skills and the work environment that is both the goal (where to work) and the process (how to work, ethics, career orientation, retention, performance, etc.)
  5. Develop the specific training materials, train the trainers, agree on the metrics, and move to the PAD

Of course these five action categories have multiple subsets and much fuller descriptions but that is for another article or two.

 The PAD – Acquiring skills for a lifetime

We now know that there are very few lifetime positions, although vocational self-employment still has great potential in that regard. Every job, from maintenance to programming, requires periodic if not continuous updating to be relevant to the marketplace. So the PAD has two functions: outline a learning/training regime that is both skills and career focused (hard and soft skills), and build in an emphasis on sustainability, that is, a flexible format that enables graduates to develop over time their own learning goals to have staying power in the economy.

  •  Preparation takes the results of the 5D process and defines what intellectual and physical capabilities the students and trainers need to make the program regime worth the effort. The most interesting challenge is working with prospective employers to define today’s job requirements without losing sight of how jobs in some sectors are evolving continually.
  •  Acquisition focuses on the learning/training materials and methodologies. Is there one-size that fits all? Considerations include quality of trainers, gender issues, embracing both soft and hard skills in a limited period of time, availability of mentoring/apprentice/OJT programs, counseling (why do so many want to own their own business; few succeed), and dozens of other concerns such as amount and accessibility of equipment, status/cultural factors, etc., etc. A critical key is developing cost effective solutions that are scalable and efficient, relying in large part on private-public sector partnerships; but it’s only one key.
  •  Demonstration deals with trainee and trainer performance. Societies in the Middle East and elsewhere still have a heavy cultural emphasis on avoiding shame so performance issues, in classes/labs, at the prospective employer, and elsewhere have to consider both the metrics and the process of achievement.

Okay, that’s the snapshot of D-PAD and a summary of what to consider in defining priorities and resource requirements to develop market-ready job seekers.