The life of the corporate trainer

Throughout my career corporate training has seemed to be the pinnacle of ELT where only the cream of the cream work. From the outside I’ve always thought of it as this:

I always thought that these corporate trainers jetsetted round the globe delivering important ‘training sessions’ followed by playing a round of golf and drinking champer’s on their client’s oceanliner.

I dreamed of getting hired or adopted by a multimillionaire who would whisk me off the  Hong Kong at a second’s notice to help him with a crossword puzzle or to order his breakfast.

Well, my first experience was teaching in a corporate department so I expected serious executives and that’s what I got. Serious bosses and students, or so it seemed. student 1 had a 150 page booklet about bridges he wanted to talk about for 3 weeks but student 2 didn’t want to talk ‘shop’, oh no, he wanted to talk ‘British culture’ and the classics ie Benny Hill and Python. He had refined taste. So, not quite the image I had before but both were eager and hardworking.

Thus, I then went back to teaching groups of younger learners but every so often got business people in my BE classes.  Later on, I did the ‘in-house training’ scenario and even taught top managers online and in person. This was a different kettle of fish. They were busy, very busy so would cancel, change and alter lesson times where they needed. I mean it’s not their priority is it? With all these students/clients I really felt like we made progress and I hope they did too but….am I missing something??

Yes, it’s interesting, requires some business savvy but is it really the highest point in your ELT career? Is a corporate trainer better than a general English teacher? If so why is there no CELTA/DELTA for that specific area? Do these teachers/trainers really deliver amazing personalised lessons via PPT, videos and other wondrous tech? Do they really earn 60+ quid an hour even 100? Is it glamorous or do they really teach admin staff in a small office like this:

Is this more the reality than my Ferrari owners?

I’d love to hear from you on this on!


7 thoughts on “The life of the corporate trainer

  1. Hi Phil, you’re right, 1-to-1 certainly runs the gammut. I remember the office of a top executive all in glass with big blue art and a thick carpet, who squeezed me like a lemon for specialized vocabulary and called me at 6:30 in the morning to prepare a presentation… Cushy lunch appointments in a small café… A room with boxes, basically a left-over storage area, with a pinboard where another client and I practiced running team meetings, talking to empty chairs – anything but glamorous!!…

    Exactly, of course they cancel all the time, so you need to have an agreement to keep them on track. But does anyone always go to the gym without a contract costing money, or out running without a buddy calling you up? Roolz is roolz.

    As for regular company courses, they’ve never been glamorous in my experience. I’ve found that, quite simply, for me the level of teaching and classroom management skills needed increases with the number of employees who take part. But if you have a big company and the complete contract, and can break the groups down by levels, it’s really not much different from teaching in a language school, is it? No more or less glamorous. Not harder or easier. You need to design a course for your target group (and I have had to run the course design by HR when I was the direct contractor and by the language school DOS when I was hired out), do the research on the language they will need, develop materials for their special area, do skills practice, run placement tests and formative assessments, report to HR on their progress… sort of a variation on exams at college… and the experience is something I’ve always enjoyed.

    About training up – it’s perhaps less challenging to teach incompany in some ways than teaching at college or school if you have an affinity to the business world and are a naturally curious person. With a basic approach and frameworks you can get them to provide most of the content. My first in-company course was a Private Banking group at Deutsche Bank, they were 3 groups of 6 for a 3-month course, and we had a great time doing simulations of their life on the job. I had no CELTA, so I didn’t do “Find someone who” or “jigsaw reading” or any of that (and didn’t miss it either). I did learn quite a lot more about how to set up simulations and tasks and teach and practice key chunks and how to give feedback and do follow-up practice in my LCCI Cert TEB, an 8-day intensive with Mark Powell. There are other business certs and dips now that are very warmly recommended by those who have done them.

    I’ve also really benefited from alternative training methods, as well, e.g. NLP and Suggestopedia, in working in company, because I have come across more people who were stressed out and completely blocked and didn’t believe they would ever be able to manage in English. I hardly need to incorporate those sorts of approaches / focus on building confidence in general English classes.

    The experience of unblocking learners is perhaps where teaching approaches coaching, and where clients are in fact willing to shell out hard cash. But whether a trainer needs a coaching background, I don’t know. It would presumably help you charge more. But creativity workshops have gone a long way for me – acting, art, storytelling, things I used when I was working at museums – to give me the skills my clients have needed me to have in class. I’ve had some coaching myself, so I know that there’s a huge range of skills people can acquire that I don’t have, but I’m not sure my clients needed those from me.

    Am I worth 60+ euros? Sadly, no, not normally. Though I do have some great business compacts in fancy hotels that pay my bills. The problem is regular, week by week training. I’m very upset at the way world market prices are squeezing those prices and making all that good (and I think essential) extra prep work more difficult to afford, so I really suspect that in company courses are going to become cheaper – in more ways than one!

    Is incompany the high point in my ELT career? No way. But it’s not the easy-peasy, walz in and have a short look at the book and have a chat and go home sort of thing that suppliers to the millions are now paying young trainers a pittance to provide.

    • Cheers for the comment Anne. It sounds fascinating. I always imagined these slick professional training sessions with purpose made stuff an trainers with PPT and IWBs etc but I guess at 25/30Euros an hour that may not be the case.

      With so many trainers/teachers around I do wonder how companies select people. Here it seems to be contacts but I guess that’s everywhere.

  2. Phil, I have taught ‘in company’, banks, engineering factories, food factories, bodegas, architects, doctors, dentists and others. Some have been ‘corporate’; the highpoint of the corporate lifestyle was in Poland where my architect student insisted on buying the coffee (very good coffee) and the baliff (a legal officer) who plied me with fags whilst we talked about his collection of moden Polish art. Low points have been teaching in the room of a recently deceased inmate of an old folks home and being warned to check the chairs for moisture before sitting down.

  3. Hi Phil

    Enjoyed the post. Yes, corporate training is a label that covers a wide variety of types of training, and it certainly isn’t always glamorous – the reality is that most corporate departments are run on tight budgets and have to be careful with their money, just like anyone else.

    Why no CELTA / DELTA? Well, there are certainly entry level certificates for business English training, and lots of masters that allow you to focus on corporate training contexts if you want to. LCCI did offer a diploma level qualification a few years ago, but I think it died because there were not enough takers. Likewise Cambridge looked at running a business English diploma, but it is never really got off the drawing board.

    Re money – I would say people can and do earn good money in corporate training, depending on where they work and how good they are at marketing themselves. Certainly 100 quid an hour in Germany is not unusual. The thing is that the trainers who earn that sort of money do not necessarily focus only on ELT – they recognise that they need to know about their client’s world as well, so they spend their time at HR conferences, not ELT, and they join associations like CIPD, not IATEFL. And they have probably invested a lot of time finding their clients and building networks – 100 quid an hour is probably not a starting wage for people at the beginning of their careers.

    Pinnacle? Cream of the cream? Highest point? Not so sure I would use those words. It’s just a different teaching context which attracts different sorts of people. I think the real cream of the cream are the teachers who spend their working lives in schools teaching teenagers, and go to work every day with a smile on their faces. I couldn’t do it.

    • Thanks Evan. I think you know this game more than anyone.

      It definitely sounds interesting. I only seem to get lower level or the occasional top level manager but it’s still more a typical course. Not the high-end super personalised courses I expect in Germany.

      I did the DELTA mod3 specifically in Business because I wanted a qualification in it but I’d consider the E-consultants Business one even though it would not be recognised here.

      100 an hour? Wow. Online I was offered 12 and in person the most I’ve seen is 35 but going direct I wouldn’t know how to approach people or sure of the logistics.

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