Workplace Training: Another Career Direction For Academics

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Academics seeking employment often find a home in workplace training, from corporate coaching sessions to hands-on social care instruction. If you’re thinking of seeking employment in the workplace training sector, or perhaps providing bespoke workplace training as part of your department’s education offer, this story provides some key facts.

A massive market.

For the UK, the most extensive survey of the private training market was undertaken in 2009 by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education. It found that the non-university market then included over 12,000 training providers (not including those who earned too little to pay VAT), most of them freelance sole proprietors or small businesses. Employers purchased just short of £3 billion in training, which represented a fraction of their overall spend on training activities (Simpson, 2009).

From this, we can extrapolate a few facts:

  • The training market as a whole is worth much more than £3 billion
  • Although competition is strong, there is still room for freelancers, and for academics working within universities, to find their niche
  • The training market has probably expanded quite a bit since this study was undertaken

Note: this study looked only at private-sector training. There is also a very large market for training in the public sector, and for private employee training that is paid for via public funds. 

Selling your services.

What do you have to offer that internal trainers, existing companies or off-the-shelf products don’t? Chances are, quite a lot. Many companies do very little in the way of in-house training these days, and some have replaced internal expertise with e-learning resources of dubious value. The 2013 Learning in the Workplace survey found that despite their high prominence in workplace training, company training and e-learning were not highly rated by the majority of respondents (Hart, 2013).

Good university lecturers have skills in curriculum design, motivation, and speaking that can help them to create better training packages. So when you’re writing promotional materials, focus on your ability as an educator—someone how understands how people learn.

Use your research skills.

Your research skills can also be used to observe and analyse workplace processes and procedures, meaning that training can be explicitly linked to improvement and innovation. That is exactly what employers want most from workplace training.

These same research skills can also help you look at your target sector, analysing trends and problems that you can design new or niche training programmes to address. Have a look at what competing training providers offer. Often you will find that they have not changed much to meet developments, but rely on companies to continue buying in the same set of stale programmes years after year. Your ability to rapidly create responses to emerging issues is worth using, and shouting about.

Research will also help you price your workplace training competitively. In a sector with this many participants, that is very important indeed. But don't forget, businesses will pay more for training that delivers results, so think of ways to build follow-up into your programmes to meet this expectation. 


Hart, Jane (2013) “Learning ion the Workplace 2013 survey results.” Online at: [Accessed 14 July 2014]

Simpson, Lindsay (2009) The Private Training Market in the UK: IFLL Sector Paper II. Leicester: National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (England and Wales). Online at: [Accessed 14 July 2014] 

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