Employer Support Resources: Differentiating Education, Training and Skills
- 5 min read
Education, training and skills are standard inclusions in job postings. They tend to get a lot of attention because employers feel they best describe the tangible elements of a job as well as effectively evaluate candidates in any recruitment process. Because they are such common qualification metrics, they are frequently used interchangeably by some recruiting organizations in their job descriptions as well as by candidates on their resumés.
While all three categories combine to provide a picture of the qualifications required for a position or held by a worker, they are distinct elements and employers need to carefully consider what are their specific business needs and what the worker or candidate brings to their business.
“As employers and recruiters, we tend to want to include long lists of specific certifications, training, education and experience in job descriptions because we think that it will help to weed out candidates that don’t meet those baselines,” says one Human Resources business partner. “But, doing so can have the effect of sifting out candidates who do actually have the right qualifications and combinations of skills, education and training for the job and who might likely be the best fit for your organization.
What They Are
Broadly speaking, education and training are forms of teaching, or acquiring learning or knowledge. The Peak Performance Centre describes it this way: education is the systemic process of learning something with a goal of acquiring knowledge, while training is the process of learning something with a goal of performing a specific skill or behaviour. Training is learning by doing and improving your ability to complete the task or process more quickly, more efficiently or more accurately. Meanwhile, skill, according to Open University, is the ability to put learning gained from education or training into practice.
Why They Are Important
Future-proofing your company means that you need to understand what roles you will need to fill now and through the long term. In the oil and gas industry, the increasingly rapid rate of adoption of new technologies means that your workforce needs will also need to adapt far more quickly than they did in the past. A significant part of that adaption will require additional education and training. A Pew Research Center survey “found that 87% of workers believe it will be essential for them to get training and develop new job skills throughout their work life in order to keep up with changes in the workplace.”
In an article by Steve Brand, according to data from the Future Foundations think tank, one in eight employees leave their job before they reach a competent level of performance. Why they fail to reach a competent level is more about training and the skills of their manager than it is about the employee.
By the time someone is offered and accepts a position, hiring managers and recruiters should have a complete picture of the person they’re looking to bring on board. Their resumé likely listed their formal education, any pertinent certifications or training and through the interview process, an employer should have been able to determine if the candidate had the right skills in order to apply those other qualifications appropriately to meet the needs of the job package.
“Unfortunately, employers don’t always do enough work up front to identify what specifics the job package really requires,” says the same HR business partner. “It really doesn’t matter if you hire the most educated, or the most highly trained or most skilled in any particular field, if there is a disconnect between what the job needs and what the candidate or the employee brings, you’re set up to fail.” If you are looking to hire a short order cook, but you choose the candidate with chef’s credentials, neither of you are going to be satisfied with the outcome.
Missing out on the right fit between a worker and the job can be one of the most frustrating impediments to successful business, as well as damaging to the reputations of employees and employers.
Recruiting someone who you thought had all of the best qualifications takes time and resources, as does on-boarding them along with any internal, company-specific training and education that you might provide. The worker has also invested time and their own resources to move through your hiring process, has accepted the job and has potentially left an existing position somewhere else. They feel they have the skill to apply their education and training in the new position and are eager and excited by the opportunity. All of this expended time and effort is jeopardized if it becomes apparent that the job requirements and the worker’s education, training and skills are not properly aligned.
At best, you might need to invest additional resources to provide appropriate training and or education for the employee to properly fulfil the job function and more time will be needed for the employee to develop and hone the new skill needed to be able to apply the learnings to their work. At worst, you or the worker might decide to part ways requiring a restart of the whole recruitment process once again.
What You Can Do
If your company is developing an energy infrastructure project, for instance, your engineering team may require several specialized engineers to plan the infrastructure and its eventual commissioning and operation. Some will be more junior and others more experienced. While your project manager is also an engineer, their role would likely require a significant level of education and skill in project and personnel management, scheduling and regulatory affairs. Others on the team would need more specific education backgrounds such as chemical, mechanical or petroleum engineering and some positions would require more specific training and skills in areas such as drafting, site preparation and environmental monitoring practices.
As an employer it really comes down to understanding your business and carefully evaluating what each job in your organization requires in terms of specific education, training and skills and what each worker needs to bring to their individual jobs.
If you have a job opening, or you are looking to add additional workers, take a critical look at what the job will entail and what it will take to ensure that job can be done efficiently and effectively. Here are some tips:
- Do not assume that you “know what you’re looking for” in terms of these three qualifications.
- Engage with the position’s immediate supervisors or manager, as well as with other staff to understand what the job really entails and how it fits in with your operational needs and future plans.
- Consider whether a position requires specific education or training or both and what skills will be required to successfully apply those pieces of knowledge to the job package.
- Create a qualifications matrix: break down the positions’ specific responsibilities and activities and list the education, skills and training required for each element and validate the results with those who currently hold the role or similar roles in your company as well as with peer organizations.
- Place people who best fit the qualifications needed for the role. Don’t pick the most senior, experienced person just because they’re willing to do the job or the most junior because they’re the most enthusiastic.