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Designing training for industry: Ripples in a pond

Beatrice Hamilton
Institute of Catholic Education

As a pilot project sponsored by the Employment and Training Croup Ballarat, in 1986 a team of three from the School of Mines and Industries in Ballarat designed some training materials for a locally based industry, Mars Confectionery. The experiences of the team, plus the changes in attitudes on the part of the "industry" personnel, should be of interest to anyone contemplating bridging the gap between education and industry. The wider effects which this pilot program had in shaping industry attitudes in the region towards education and the development of such training programs may also be of interest.

Introduction: At the edge of the pond

In 1986 a team from Ballarat Technical and Further Education, known as the School of Mines and Industries Ballarat (SMB), was employed to develop some training materials for Mars Confectionery in Ballarat. This project was initiated through the Training and Employment Group of Ballarat (TEGB) which, at the time then was a federal government sponsored body comprised of the key leaders of Ballarat industries set up to improve industry based training and employment within the Ballarat Region. Mars Confectionery and SMB put a joint proposal to the TEGB to fund a pilot training scheme to "test the effectiveness of (seconding) an educational institution directly into industry" (SMB and Mars, 1986). The funding was approved, and SMB then selected a team to carry out the project.

Into the water

The team which started work on the project in May consisted of an instructional designer (the author) and a technical writer. These two began by spending two weeks in the work factory on a full time basis which gave them an opportunity to become familiar with the work environment and the process. After this they dropped back to work on a part time basis as originally agreed upon.

After undergoing a slightly shortened version of the standard Mars induction program, most of the first two weeks was spent on the factory floor, observing and discussing with various employees the operations carried out. This raised a difficulty which was to remain with the team throughout the project. The factory worked three shifts over 24 hours, rotating crews each week. Just as the team felt good relations were being established with particular operators, these operators became virtually unavailable for the next two weeks. By overlapping from one shift to the first two hours of the next there was some opportunity to catch operators more often. A further problem was that the everyday demands of the factory meant that operators often had little time to engage in extended discussions. It was for this reason that Mars released operators from the production line wherever possible to assist with the program.

Seldom, if ever, does a pilot project run smoothly, and this one was no exception. When the team began, they had certain ideas regarding the likely results of the project. However, expectations seemed to vary widely for each of the industry personnel involved varied widely, presumably because each person interpreted the project slightly differently. In addition to these varying expectations, some industry participants were very positive about the project's potential, while others were openly sceptical of the likely usefulness of the materials which would be produced. Despite pressure from many quarters to "produce", the team felt it was necessary to start from scratch and identify the training needs.

An educational psychologist became the third member of the team on a part time basis two months into the project. This required considerable readjustment as roles and responsibilities within the team had to be re-established.

Efforts were made to use the company's resources in word processing, but this proved unsatisfactory. The turnaround time from the company was too slow to adequately serve the team's needs as the company had to place its priority on the day to day operations. Therefore another addition to the team was a word processing operator, obtained after the first two months in an effort to streamline the system. This meant that alterations to data could be made rapidly, and the final materials presented to the company could be quickly updated as factory equipment and procedures were changed.

The team noted that the company maintained a philosophy of developing skills in many areas of the factory rather than continuous work in one area. As well, the factory production line was organised for a continuous flow from raw material input to finished product outflow. This meant that discrete units were not easy to identify and therefore training needed to take an integrated approach towards the knowledge and skills to be acquired. Training was carried out on an individual basis, using the best operator in an area as the trainer. Therefore a training system was designed which followed this approach.

The rationale behind the design: Pebbles on the bottom

The ideas and principles behind the design of this project were not new. They are derived from the body of educational theory which had developed over many years. It is of interest to note that the basis for much of instructional design theory comes from two noted educational psychologists, Robert Gagne and Leslie Briggs. These two were initially involved in designing training materials for the US Air Force after World War II (Briggs 1980). As a consequence they developed their Principles of Instructional Design which is a reference currently used as the basis for much of educational development by instructional designers.

Unfortunately the fact that educational "theory" developed from hands on work in industry does not appear to be well known in many Australian industries or education and some people in industry often view education as a body of "irrelevant theory" not useful in practice!

Gagne and Briggs (1974) stated that four basic assumptions were made in developing their principles and these are:

  1. Instruction is for the individual, and therefore must cater for individual needs and differences
  2. Instruction must be planned not only for the immediate future but also for long term needs
  3. Systematically designed instruction can greatly affect individual development, and
  4. Designing instruction must be based upon a knowledge of how human beings learn (Gagne and Briggs, 1974: 45)
Each of these assumptions was also a basis for the design of the Mars training materials. The manuals were also to include a variety of presentation methods, from written explanations to diagrams and flow charts.

The first ripple

The system that was designed consisted of a series of manuals which were to correspond to each of the major areas of the factory, while containing an overview of the whole company's operations and indicated the position which a particular area filled in the total process. The manuals were divided into sections, each of which focussed on a particular part of the training needs.

The manuals each contained all the information on operations necessary for a defined area in the factory.

They detailed the information on input, throughput and output to show exactly where the area fit in the broad context of the factory. Input included the necessary details on equipment, controls and raw materials. The manuals examined process and flow in terms of startup, running and shut down operations, while questions regarding safety, hygiene, and quality control were addressed by looking at the finished product specifications and noting the requirements for these.

The manuals included a question bank to act as a resource for assessment, and a section to record events when problems occurred in the defined area. This was to assist in fault finding when problems arose which were very infrequent.

Each manual included the above information under the following headings:

  1. Objectives
  2. Product Description
  3. Overview of Process
  4. Safety
  5. Hygiene
  6. Equipment
  7. Controls
  8. Raw Materials
  9. Startup
  10. Operating Procedures
  11. Shut down Procedures
  12. Quality Control
  13. Communications
  14. Fault Finding
  15. Assessment
As can be seen from the above description, the manuals were designed as a resource to be used by an individual trainer and trainee, which is consistent with Mars training procedures. It is beyond the scope of this paper to describe in depth the design of the manuals. Suffice it to say that these sections reflected the needs as interpreted by the team.

The end of the first ripples

The result of this project in terms of the team's efforts was a model for training manuals which could be used throughout the factory. None of the manuals were completed before the funding was exhausted. Instead a total of six manuals had been started with two being near the trialing stage.

The team was disappointed by this, having hoped to have at least one finished manual for the company to use as a prototype. However it was clear that these manuals, even when completed could not fulfil all of the training needs which the team identified. The manuals needed extensive work before they could be used as independent learning materials, and the resources were not available for this.

Because of this, a number of recommendations were made in the final report by the team to the TEGB, based on the experience gained in this project.

These were:

  1. A needs analysis for the organisation should be carried out before a training program is initiated to ensure that the primary issues are addressed first.
Assuming a training program is to be started, then
  1. Comprehensive negotiations should be carried out to clarify expectations of all parties and persons involved.

  2. All parties should be fully briefed as to the aim of the project and their part in it and be properly introduced to facilitate progress.

  3. All levels of management should keep abreast of the project's development.

  4. The underlying principles of instructional design should be incorporated.

  5. As a team can bring a wider variety of experiences into a project of this sort than can an individual, a team approach should be given serious consideration.

  6. People from outside an industry are often invaluable and more objective in identifying needs and designing programs than those within an industry and seeking such perspectives should be seriously considered.

  7. The time needed to complete such a project may vary considerably due to unforeseen events.

  8. The less tangible benefit of developing a better understanding of the value of training in a particular organisation should not be ignored when weighing up the potential benefits of such a project.

  9. The substantial benefits of having education and industry working together should be recognised.
In addition to the above general recommendations, some or all of the following specific recommendations made to Mars in Ballarat may be relevant to firms in a similar position.

New ripples

Although the pilot project finished in early 1987, it appears that the ripples from the first tentative dip are producing new ones. Most of the recommendations made to Mars Ballarat have been or are to be carried out For example, shortly after the project finished, Mars established a "trainer support" group and conducted trainer training sessions with the help of MB. In addition Mars has established an ongoing educational program with Ballarat College of Advanced Education. This program gives employees an opportunity to take a course with units in, for example, food technology, administration, and electrical engineering. Completion of the course does not provide a formal qualification recognised outside Mars at present, but it is hoped that this may encourage some employees to undertake tertiary studies.

SMB is now working with several other industries around Ballarat, providing needs analyses and assistance with training requirements. These industries had watched with interest the pilot project and have obviously decided that education can offer industry something worthwhile.

It is gratifying to the author to see that training in Ballarat is more widely being seen as a means of progressive improvement rather than an end in itself. Employees are an important resource to industry and training enables an industry to better utilise this resource.


Briggs, L. J. (1980). Thirty Years of Design: One man's experience. Educational Technology, 20(2), 45-50.

Gagne, R. M. and Briggs, L. J. (1974). Principles of Instructional Design. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Hamilton, B. and Dalton, D. ( 1987). Final Report on the Training Project for Mars Confectionery Limited. Ballarat: School of Mines and Industries, Ballarat.

Author: Ms Beatrice Hamilton is currently a lecturer in Biosciences at the Aquinas Campus of the Institute of Catholic Education in Ballarat. She has worked for a number of years as an instructional designer in distance education and was employed by Ballarat TAFE as an instructional designer in 1986/87 when this industry training project was carried out.

Please cite as: Hamilton, B. (1988). Designing training for industry: Ripples in a pond. In J. Steele and J. G. Hedberg (Eds), Designing for Learning in Industry and Education, 103-107. Proceedings of EdTech'88. Canberra: AJET Publications.

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