This précis provides an extended summary of the Notes on Training Needs Assessment methodology extracted from:
Riise J. Christian and Dirk Reyntjens.1998. Report on Training Needs of Research staff at the National Fisheries Institutes in Libya, Morocco and Tunisia. Results of missions to Libya, Morocco and Tunisia in October/November 1998.
Keywords: marine fisheries/ research staff/ training needs
Why needs assessment
It is becoming widely recognised that the outputs of informal and formal training activities will be enhanced by assessing the needs and the level of skills and knowledge of potential participants before implementing the training. By knowing the overall objectives of an organisation or an institute and the profiles, jobs and daily tasks of each staff, it becomes possible to tailor training activities to the needs of an organisation or institute as well as to the personal needs of the staff members. Furthermore, it becomes easier for the organisation or external funding agencies to identify who should, and who should not participate in specific courses or workshops. The immediate gains are motivated participants and a higher satisfaction of their immediate needs. The long-term gains are longer-lasting effects of training, when needs have been addressed at the right time in the right way.
Expected outputs from needs assessment missions
A series of methods are available and commonly used in a Training Needs Assessment (TNA) for the gathering and subsequent analysis of information related to the job functions and tasks performed by staff potentially in need of training. To avoid a skewed picture of the actual needs the same kind of information will often be sampled by slightly different means, e.g.:
Questionnaires should be forwarded by E-mail to the institutes at least two-three weeks before the visits by consultants. The questionnaires should consist of three separate questionnaires to be completed by potential training candidates (= respondents):
Q1. A profile of potential training candidates (personal history form).
Q2. A description of job functions and tasks performed by potential training candidates.
Q3. An assessment of the training needs, skills and knowledge, as identified by potential training candidates.
The Training Needs Assessment should only cover staff involved with marine resource assessment and related activities at the national fisheries research institutes, and therefore should be handed to selected staff only. The questionnaires are designed to provide basic personal information as well as being the main source of information for the assessment of staff knowledge and need for training in topics related to fishery resources assessment.
Questionnaire1 is designed to collect basic personal information. In Questionnaire 2 respondents are presented with a list of the major job functions normally assigned to staff involved in the assessment of natural resources at National Fisheries Institutes. In the list, respondents are asked to identify the job functions that best correspond to the job functions in their present position. Under each major job function, tasks are listed, that are normally performed by fisheries officers. Respondents are then asked to rate how often they perform each task; how important they rate the task compared to other tasks; and whether they have difficulties in performing the task, by using rating scales. In Questionnaire 3 respondents are asked to rate their competency, i.e. skills and knowledge, in a number of disciplines and activities directly or indirectly related to the job functions and tasks, that have been identified in Questionnaire 2. Three questions are to be answered: at what level do you possess the skill or knowledge?; how important is the skill or knowledge for your present job?; and how do you perceive your need for training in this discipline/subject? Again, each respondent is asked to use a rating scale for their answers.
Interviews are normally used as an additional way of obtaining information and should always be supplemented by other means of gathering information. The main advantages of an interview are:
The interview method recommended for use during missions is called the structured or formalised interview as opposed to an open interview. The structured interview should always follow a list of questions decided upon beforehand and changes and/or additions to the questions should not be made unless absolutely necessary. However, the interviewer is of course welcome to answer clarifying questions from the respondent, whenever necessary. Each interview should take between one and two hours, taking into account that the respondent sometimes needed time to find the right answers.
Interviews are primarily with directors and/or high ranking officers in charge of departments, divisions, sections or specific working practices and with the responsibility of supervising a number of staff.
The need for training amongst resource assessment staff in general can also be assessed during a workshop. Alone and in small groups, staff can be asked to identify what skills and knowledge they found were needed to do proper resource assessment and to help each other in identifying areas of improvement in their work plans and working practices. The reason for using workshops and not interviews for permanent staff are:
The criteria for selecting staff for participation in Training Needs Assessment workshops are:
A recommended method for use during workshops is the "Pyramid method", whereby participants are firstly one by one, secondly two by two and thirdly four by four asked to discuss and identifying certain issues. Finally, in groups of four or eight, participants are asked to find a consensus to the questions given and choose a spokesperson to present the results of the group.
Review of publications
Publications should be reviewed to assess the quantity and quality of scientific research published by researchers at specific institutes.
During each mission, the consultant(s) should observe and note down the general facilities supporting the daily work of people working in resource assessment. Particular focus should be on computer and library facilities and if available, on research facilities and working conditions on board research vessels.
Précis compiled and prepared by Joan Baron, Centre for the Economics and Management of Aquatic Resources (CEMARE), University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, United Kingdom.