This post was begun on the RESNET-BPI group on LinkedIn. The original post was asking for advice about training in Ohio. The ensuing discussion ended up focused on training approaches. There was a concern that some “sales pitch” had crept in, I think that’s fine if it’s obvious or declared. So, here’s a big fat disclaimer: this is a sort of a sales pitch in that it’s about our philosophy, read no further if that will bug you… It’s also a bit long…
We’ve been conducting HERS training since about 2000 as instructors and since 2006 as our own provider. We’ve been doing BPI since 2007. We’ve done it old school that entire time; sit in class while we regale you with endless hours of PowerPoint. Then, we take you to the field for, at best two days of field training. Then you test.
We’ve made it a point to not teach to the test. There is too much to know to be successful that the test doesn’t even begin to touch on. In the beginning, this all worked out pretty well. We had experienced and/or highly motivated people who did quite well and our pass rate was about what we were looking for mid 80’s or better. We’ve never believed that in that environment, everyone would pass the test. If we wanted to teach the test I’m sure we could get it up into the mid 90% range without any trouble. However, back then especially, most of our students were indeed going on to start their own businesses, we felt strongly that we would be short changing them if we didn’t prepare them for the “real” world.
As time has gone by, we’ve seen a slow decrease in our pass rate. We continually work to get better, so we don’t frankly think it’s us per se. On the other hand, it is us, as we need to respond to a changing student demographic. Students now (in general) are less experienced, less motivated by vision and passion, and more likely to have funding support (i.e. they have less or no skin in the game). This has been a huge challenge to us. We allow anyone in, but we have every student go through a pretest to assess their readiness for the class. If the pretest says the student is weak on basic construction, we give a variety of ways to remedy that before training. I could go on in this vein.
To address this, we’ve changed our philosophy in a dramatic way. Over a year ago, we began an initiative to address our weaknesses, improve our training, meet students where they are and up our game to meet the realities of today’s market. We’ve come to believe that classroom training is good for some students and really poor for others. The various learning types are not all served by the classroom approach. We’ve spent a lot of time and money thinking and developing our training for the online environment. It is important to us that we continue to do as we’ve done, and not teach to the test. We are adamant that we must do the best to train people for success in the industry, not just success on the test. Yes, the test is the first hurdle, but we’ve had far too many folks come to us for HERS Provider services that simply weren’t ready for prime time.
Our eLearning environment is self-paced within the context of a cohort of other students (in other words, you still have a class group to keep up with, but there is enough time to make it convenient). This is also important as we believe strongly that our andragogy (that’s a big ass fancy word for adult education as opposed to pedagogy, which is a big ass fancy word for child education) needs to have a social aspect. Our classes include class projects, social interaction, and the creation of something “real”, another important feature of effective learning.
I’ll leave the discussion of the eLearning aspect at this point and turn to the field portion. I hope that we’d all agree that field training is incredibly important. Of course, it’s also required, but again, we’ve had folks come to us who never actually touched the equipment in class. That’s just wrong. So, we are now delivering our classroom online. The field remains the field. Students can either come here to lovely Colorado or to one of a number of locations around the country via our Training Partner network. What’s that you say? Well, we can’t be everywhere at once (aka Training Mill approach and they obviously can’t be everywhere at once either see my blog post on this ) so we’ve worked with a number of our best and most trusted friends to create a network of people that can deliver the field portion of the training in their region. This also deals to a large degree with the regionality issue which I believe is a valid one. Our long term objective is to be able to offer field trainings that can be as small as three students. That, in our opinion, would enable the level of quality that we all would like to see in the field portion. One requirement that we have is that a student will never leave our field training without demonstrating competency with the diagnostic testing equipment.
We’ve got a long way to go, but this outlines our approach. It’s sure to evolve as we and the industry grow. Thanks for hanging in there for this lengthy post. Comments welcome, but discussion will be on the Residential Energy Professional Training group on LinkedIn.