Jul 28, 2015
The Pros & Cons of On-The-Job Training
“Hey there greenhorn, take a look at the robot total station and pass me that ground penetrating radar device.”
Does this conversation sound familiar to you? How did you handle it? If you didn’t have the slightest idea about what your co-worker was saying chances are you didn’t receive a lot of practical training before you got the job.
On the other hand, if you knew exactly what was going on then you obviously have some experience working with those types of tools.
The question then becomes: where did you acquire that experience? On the job or in a classroom? Every industry has room for different types of experience, so let’s take a look at the pros and cons of practical experience to see if we can agree on a preferred path of training.
Training in the Field Pros:
Learning on the job while surrounded by knowledgeable individuals at an established company is a great way to pick up specific tips and tricks you might not learn in a classroom. Plus, not only are you learning from people who get paid to do the job, you’re making money at the same time. Everybody wins, right?
Cons: Well, from the company’s perspective, the time spent answering questions and providing feedback is time that’s not focused on getting the job done. Some companies might not hire people without theoretical expertise.
Pros: From the manager’s perspective, however, it’s better to teach a man to fish and watch him do it right than to fish for him forever. In other words, teaching a motivated new recruit in the field ensures they’ll do the work the way the company wants it done.
Cons: Back to the contractor’s or employee’s perspective, learning on the job means you’re only experiencing one company’s preferred methods or procedures.
Learning in the Classroom Pros:
Theoretical knowledge acquired in a classroom is the result of countless studies and thousands of hours of work done in different fields of knowledge. The subject matter is free of politics, contracts or pre-existing relationships. Students who want to join the oil and gas industry learn about the industry from the ground up, literally. They learn about the importance of oil before they ever learn about methods of extracting it.
Cons: But is that really important? Is it crucial to understand the impact oil has on the environment before we learn how to operate an aerial drone? Learning in the classroom instead of the field doesn’t help you adopt company-specific unique methods being used in the industry. In fact, once you graduate and enter the industry, chances are you’ll need to adjust to a lot of new information and practices.
Pros: You might not necessarily need to know about the intricacies of the oil and gas industry at first, but the more an employee understands about the industry, the more likely they are to earn a promotion in the future.
Cons: But who wants a promotion?
Cons: Oh, right.
Striking a Balance
There’s no question that there’s value in learning on the job. In fact, it can be hard to find a job without practical experience. To go to work knowing you’re going to be trained in field-tested methods while getting paid is exciting for any young worker. The problem is that this method has a ceiling. You can be one of the most experienced surveyors or welders in your field, but if you don’t have knowledge about the industry as a whole or skills dealing with people, then progressing into a management role (and the benefits that come with it) isn’t a reality. It all boils down to this: don’t limit yourself. Give yourself every opportunity to succeed and doors will open up for you. This means it’s important to hit the books and learn as much as you can in the field as well. Plus, you don’t have to learn everything at once – education doesn’t care how old you are, there are plenty of courses available once you’ve spent some time in the industry. But in any case, we’d love to know what you think – where did you get your experience from? Do you think there’s more value in on-the-job training or learning theoretical knowledge in the classroom?