Interview with Clara Lippert Glenn, of the Oxford Princeton Programme

I recently mentioned that the blog will begin focusing periodically on the role of training and development in various industries.  We previously looked at the role of L&D in banking and financial services, and I plan on returning to it soon.  Today we’ll get a unique look into training’s role in the energy sector.

I recently had a chance to interview Clara Lippert Glenn, President and CEO of the Oxford Princeton Programme, which provides an effective and flexible approach to educating professionals worldwide on the business and trading of energy (oil, gas, power, etc.).  The organization offers customizable programs for on-site team training, more than 200 public courses in 23 energy hubs globally, and the most extensive library of web-based courses available 24/7 on www.princetonlive.com.

Clara was nice enough to answer some questions below.  Take a look, and I invite you to leave your feedback in the comments section below.

Training Station: What are some of the biggest challenges that energy companies face these days with regards to training their employees?  Are they unique to the energy industry particularly?

Clara Lippert Glenn : The biggest challenge facing companies in every industry, including energy, stems from the balancing act required in maintaining a properly trained post-recession workforce.  The recession forced companies to streamline their workforce and do more with less.  Now, post-recession, companies are rebounding but are still hesitant to fully restore their workforce to pre-recession capacity.  Therefore, the challenge lies in finding the time and resources to adequately train a workforce while still meeting demands of the business.

TS: As with many industries, as people are living longer, they tend to be working into later in life, and it seems perhaps that fewer positions are available for workers just getting out of college.  Particularly with more veteran workers, how are energy companies reacting to the need for updated training?    

CLG: The trend of people working later into life may also be a result of the recession.  Forced to delay retirement due to 401k losses and house value depreciation, people have been extending their careers to stabilize their retirement funds.  This causes concern for energy companies because folks can decide to retire at any time and it will create a substantial knowledge gap.  Energy companies must have processes in place to quickly and effectively train replacements in order to close that knowledge gap.

TS: The energy industry is also changing rapidly, with an increasing focus on natural gas and renewable energy.  It’s not that risky to predict further major changes within the next 15-20 years.  So even an engineer who just graduated from university will likely have to be able to adapt to new responsibilities and tasks not that far into his/her career.  How can energy companies keep younger employees updated in terms of the skills they need to perform at a high level?  And at a philosophical level – how can we stress that value of continuous learning? 

CLG: The key to keeping employees updated with competitive skills is continuous training.  Too often companies will undertake a huge training initiative one year and then do not train for the next several years.  Much like training your body at the gym, it requires a steady and consistent approach in order to develop a rhythm and achieve optimal results.  Working out extremely hard one day a month is far less effective than developing a consistent and reasonable daily workout regimen.  The same principles apply to the training of the mind.

TS: Some of your courses are taught in traditional classroom settings by The Oxford Princeton Programme’s experts, while some are taught online.  How do you go about trying to convince managers that it would directly benefit their business’s overall training program, to have a combination?  And in general, do you support the blended learning approach? 

CLG: Here at The Oxford Princeton Programme we have developed both instructor-led and web-based training.  We hold a firm belief that each individual learns best differently.  We encourage our clients to take the learning approach that best suits their team’s needs but for the most part we find the blended learning approach to be most effective.  A blended learning approach allows individuals to gain access to our experts and then have what they’ve learned reinforced by our web-based training on Princetonlive.com.  It can also work the other way around with the web-based training being the appetizer to the instructor-led training.

TS: Perhaps as a follow-up to the previous question, but maybe in addition to it, how do you think learning can and should continue after an initial training course? 

CLG: In our case, we encourage past delegates to continue taking web-based training courses.  We also offer intermediate and advanced courses to optimize one’s skills and competency.  Finally, we encourage them to stay engaged with the topics and news of the industry by reading and staying active in industry forums.  This will help put their learning’s to use on a frequent basis which is key to maintaining the information.

TS: A recurring issue in that many training managers face – especially in a struggling economy – is the need to achieve compliance & top performance, whilst working with decreasing budgets and shorter time-frames. How can we be creative in our approach to deliver outcomes within these constraints? Your thoughts? 

CLG: Working against budget constraints, compliance requirements and shorter time frames requires blended training solutions that are flexible and focused.  The best solution would be a mix between on-site courses and web-based courses.  This can satisfy an organization’s exact training needs all while keeping the budget and time commitment down by eliminating travel.  Also, encouraging folks to read and be active in industry forums is a key ancillary solution. Combining formalized training with internal initiatives to promote industry awareness will help keep workforce’s skills sharp.

TS: If you would be giving advice to someone just beginning their career in L&D, what would you tell them? 

CLG: My best piece of advice to an individual beginning a career in Learning and Development would be to spend a significant amount of time in other areas of the industry and company.  See what their everyday challenges and struggles are.  Until you fully appreciate the daily issues they face you can’t begin to assist them.  Once you fully understand those challenges, you are then in a position to fulfill their training needs.

Jason Silberman
Jason is the former Lead Author & Editor of TrainingStation Blog
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