· Features

Employers and teachers must learn to share their approaches to people development

Having built a successful career in marketing, a friend of mine decided a year or so ago to retrain as a teacher.

It now seems she was at the vanguard of a growing trend, because over the past year the Government has reported enquiries for postgraduate teacher training courses are up by 45%. With some of this growth coming from redundant City workers, a newspaper cartoonist recently quipped: 'Bankers retraining as teachers? Not as maths teachers I hope!'

Whatever discipline they choose to teach, however, it's clear they will have to learn a whole new set of skills. Although they may have a thorough practical and theoretical grounding in their subject, getting this across to a classroom full of restless teenagers is no mean feat. "On my first week I had to teach a 'challenging' year-nine class," my friend told me, "and after just 10 minutes there was a near riot. The head of department had to bail me out." This is from a woman who in business had a reputation as someone you didn't mess with.

Now she is nearing the end of her training course, my friend is reporting a significant transformation. "You don't just learn the techniques you need to teach your subject; you learn techniques that help you earn the respect of your students too. Today I can walk into that same year-nine class and have them hanging on every word. I'd never appreciated quite what a skilful job teaching was."

But as the boundaries between education and the workplace are becoming increasingly blurred, these are skills I believe more and more organisations will need to acquire.

Last month I wrote in this column about McDonald's new work-experience programme - the first of its kind to be aligned to a nationally recognised qualification. In doing so, I highlighted the fact that across the UK around 95% of young people undertake work-experience placements.

But this begs an important question. How are employers going to effectively support young people on this first spin through the revolving door between education and the workplace, unless they have a clear understanding of the techniques being used to build on their experience once they are back in classroom?

Furthermore, as the trend for talented individuals to move into and out of formal education as their career progresses continues to grow, the need for employers and educators to share approaches to learning will become ever greater. The good news is the solution may be closer than it first appears.

A recent survey by People 1st, the sector skills council for hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism, found nearly two-thirds of businesses that have traditionally paid for external training have moved, or are considering moving, more of their training in-house because of the challenging economic climate. And this, according to Sharon Glancy, managing director of Stonebow - the training division of People 1st - creates an outstanding opportunity to bring valuable teaching skills in-house too.

"Stonebow has been delivering Train the Trainer programmes for more than 40 years," Glancy explains, "and the learning theory and training skills elements of these programmes are at the heart of everything we do. I believe these skills are essential for maximum results; we work closely with clients to ensure these are delivered in a way that makes them relevant to the organisation and meets the needs of business and its people."

For me, this is vital. Effective in-house training not only ensures employees are equipped and engaged to fulfil their roles more effectively, but it also has a pivotal part to play in supporting the culture and values of an organisation.

My friend could be at the vanguard of a trend that is bigger than it may appear. As the revolving door between education and the workplace spins faster, teaching skills will become a point of mutual engagement. And the financial and social ROI from developing these skills will become more attractive with every revolution. In short, we need to seize every opportunity we can to train our trainers.

- David Fairhurst is senior VP/chief people officer, McDonald's Restaurants Northern Europe