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Technology Education in Business And Industry

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Ed Bales is the director of external systems education at Motorola University in Schaumburg, Illinois.

What skills do you look for in prospective employees in corporate education?

Some areas do require specific skills in engineering and marketing, but industry is also concerned with generic skills, such as verbal skills, written communication skills, math and science literacy, responsibility, teamwork, collaborative effort, and problem-solving skills. I can't overstate how important these skills are. Motorola and many other corporations have moved to design teams that include sales and engineering experts as well as experts from many other areas. In order to make those teams work, the people on the teams need generic as well as specific engineering or marketing skills.

For example, the new telephone we are developing is only touched by human hands four times during the manufacturing process. What do all the employees do? They solve production problems. When there are problems, groups get to work deciding how to solve the problems both now and permanently.

What kind of credentials do people need for this career?

People need a two-year associate's degree at a minimum, and many specialists in areas like engineering need more advanced degrees. One of the most important developments in corporate education is the development of instructional design. This is not the same thing as curriculum design. Instructional designers look at the competencies that people need for specific jobs. They examine the duties and tasks that make up the job, then they analyze the tasks that are critical to the job. In general, 20 percent of the tasks in a job are responsible for 80 percent of the success of the job. Instructional designers look at the knowledge and skills that are needed for success in the job and the attitudes and attributes that are important for the job-attitudes like responsibility, openness to change, and willingness to be part of a team and engage in teamwork. Openness to change is a very important attribute because many corporations are committed to continuous improvement, which requires continuous education and continuous change.

For the next step, the instructional designers develop a job model; then they find exemplary performers in the area to find out what they do that makes them so effective in their jobs. Education is compressed experience. The instructional designers work with exemplary performers to condense the experience these performers have and package it in ways that other people can learn. The exemplary performers become the subject area experts for the instructional designers. Instructional designers meet with exemplary performers for two to three days to find out what the exemplary performers do to be so successful.

Exemplary performers know what they do, but they often cannot describe how they actually improve their performance. The instructional designers listen to them, learn what they do, and design a program for other employees. Their goal is to capture experience and package it in ways that will engage adult learners.

What is a typical workday like for people in corporate education?

There is no typical day in this profession. Every day is different. Every group that you work with will have different strengths and needs.

Professionals in this field need to be familiar with many different methods of communication. Adults are not interested in the classic teacher/presenter model. We do not use the term teacher because it is too reminiscent of "lecturer" or "expert." Fifty percent of the learning that happens in class happens because of the interaction of the people in class.

People who are interested in instructional design must learn how to motivate people, how to use aspiration instead of fear as a motivating tool. Instructional designers must be aware of the specific needs of adult learners and learn appropriate strategies to present material effectively. People who have been trained in a traditional setting may have trouble adjusting to this. Collaborative learning is a workplace norm, but in high school, it is called cheating. Memorization is useless in a field where information becomes dated in a short period of time. People in this field must be committed to continuous learning and continuous improvement.

Continuous improvement means continuous learning. As industry adopts this philosophy of continuous improvement, tremendous opportunities are created for people who are interested in teaching in a corporate setting. Opportunities will vary from corporation to corporation; some companies will prefer to work with generalists who bring in specialists for consultation as needed. Other companies develop comprehensive programs that employ specialists in several areas. Although job titles and job descriptions will vary, most teaching opportunities will be in manufacturing support, technical support, supervision, marketing and sales support, management development, and instructional design.

Manufacturing support offers a wide range of teaching opportunities for people who are interested in teaching in a corporate setting. Most teaching opportunities require a bachelor's degree in the subject area and extensive work experience in a specialized area, such as engineering, computer programming, electronics, or chemistry. Instructors may be asked to develop a course that will teach a specific skill or process, or they may be asked to teach materials that have been developed by instructional designers. As instructors, their primary responsibility is to help employees master skills and understand the ideas covered in their course. Instructors present information, answer questions, and evaluate student progress. Teaching in a corporate setting is very different from teaching in a school because instructors are not always the content matter experts in a corporate class, and, in fact, a major responsibility that instructors have is to facilitate ways for employees to share their expertise with other employees.

Educational qualifications for these opportunities will vary from company to company, but in general, the minimum educational requirement is a bachelor's degree in business. Instructors who specialize in engineering or other subjects will need a degree in their area of specialization. In some cases, a master's degree will be required. Instructors who teach in occupational areas will need extensive work experience in their field.

People who are interested in this career will need to develop strong written and oral communication skills and extensive organizational skills. As with all instructors, they need to develop the ability to break complex skills and activities down into assignments that can be learned in a sequence that makes sense for adult learners.

People who work in manufacturing support usually enjoy excel-lent working conditions. Staff members work with interested and motivated adults and are free to focus on teaching as opposed to discipline, co-curricular activities, or publication. While these positions may include a significant amount of travel, instructors in this field enjoy competitive salaries and benefits. Salaries vary from corporation to corporation but usually range from $24,000 to $71,000 a year. Opportunities for instructors in this field will continue to expand as corporations focus on continuous improvement and as professionals in this area reach retirement age.

Supervisory training focuses on specific management skills that supervisors need in their day-to-day work. Instructors develop courses that teach problem-solving skills, evaluation and supervisory skills, organizational skills such as developing agendas and running meetings, and negotiating skills. Instructors also develop courses that teach supervisors how to deal with legal and ethical issues that they may face on the job. These classes may be developed by the instructors themselves, or they may be developed by instructional designers.

Professionals in this field need a minimum of a bachelor's degree in business, must develop strong communication and organizational skills, and must have the ability to create courses that will meet specific objectives. People who are attracted to this field enjoy working with adult learners and enjoy excellent working conditions. This career may entail some travel, but the salaries are generally competitive, ranging from $24,000 to $71,000 a year, and are usually part of a complete salary and benefits package. Opportunities in this career will remain strong with new positions being created by industry and other opportunities occurring as currently employed staff retire.

People who enjoy working with adult learners find many teaching opportunities in marketing and sales training. This is a huge field that includes professionals who teach customers how to use the technology they have purchased, to professionals who train marketing and sales staff. In most situations, a bachelor's degree in business is the minimum academic credential required, and in all cases, individuals who work in this area need strong written and verbal communication skills and must be able to relate to adult learners. Many corporations have developed detailed curricula for specific skills that they need taught, as well as more general courses in providing customer service, organizing trade shows, giving presentations, developing proposals, writing reports, and dealing with customer complaints. In some cases, instructors need to work with managers and customers to develop their own course materials. As with all teachers, instructors need to be able to create course work that will enable students to learn skills and content, as well as facilitate discussion, present and explain information, and evaluate student progress.

Working with adult learners can be challenging, but it is also very stimulating since adult learners tend to be very focused and motivated. Working conditions for instructors in marketing and sales vary widely. In many corporations, instructors in marketing and sales are expected to do extensive amounts of travel as they serve customers and staff in various parts of the country. Salary and benefits packages vary from corporation to corporation but are generally competitive, ranging from $24,000 to $71,000 a year. Opportunities for instructors in marketing and sales are predicted to remain strong.

People who are interested can also work with management to improve skills in areas such as negotiation, problem-solving, planning, and analysis. Frequently these specialists will work with managers to help them focus on reorganization and change. Since this is a highly specialized field, it requires a combination of advanced education and an impressive resume of corporate experience. Many of the professionals who work in this field are self-employed consultants who develop the specialized seminars and programs that deal with current topics and then present these programs as needed.

In addition to education and experience, people who are interested in this field need to develop exceptional communication and organizational skills and must be willing to travel extensively. Opportunities are extremely limited, but people who are drawn to this field enjoy working with extremely intelligent and articulate people who are sharply focused on their goals. Salary will depend on the skill of the consultant and on the programs the consultant can develop and market. The salary range can be from very marginal to more than $180,000 a year.

This is unusual in terms of teaching, because the teacher is not the content expert. In order to qualify for this position, applicants will need to earn a master's degree in instructional design. Applicants will also need to develop exceptional communication and organizational skills and be able to relate well with adult learners. People who are drawn to this field are interested in teaching and designing courses. Working conditions are excellent, and instructional designers have the opportunity to work with extremely motivated and interested people. Salaries in this field are excellent, ranging from $40,000 to $70,000 a year.
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