As the name implies, off-the-job training is the training done on behalf of employers, usually away from their premises. It can involve both theory (background knowledge) and practical training and may include assessment and examinations. Although usually delivered on the premises of the provider it may involve online learning in the workplace and visits from provider staff to the employer in order to deliver aspects of training.

How does your off-the-job training compare with that of the most effective provision seen on inspection?

The following strengths and areas for improvement have been taken from recent inspection reports across the Ofsted Learning and Skills remit.

Common inspection strengths

  • Well-managed and delivered off-the-job training
  • Good off-the-job practical teaching
  • Good off-the-job training resources
  • Good standards of off-the-job teaching and learning

Common inspection areas for improvement

  • Unsatisfactory off-the-job training
  • Poor teaching and learning
  • Inadequate resources to support off-the-job training
  • Unsatisfactory teaching of background knowledge

If you were given a similar area for improvement bullet at the end of your last inspection, self assessed this area as an area for improvement, or want to work to avoid such areas for improvement, then consider what inspectors judge to be key.

Particularly effective practice identified in inspections includes:

  • Having a flexible off-the-job training programme with several possible starting points so that non-summer starters are not disadvantaged.
  • Sharing training schedules of activities with employers and learners (often an annual plan) to help co-ordination of off-the-job and on-the-job training, encouraging on-the-job input to support off-the-job in a timely manner.
  • By doing this learners are also aware of what areas they have missed and may be able to 'read-up' if they miss sessions.
  • Organising the training programme to meet the needs of learners and their employers. An early emphasis on health and safety and acquisition of skills that will enable learners to make an 'economic contribution' to their workplace.
  • Using the results of 'learning styles' initial assessment in order to design different activities to deliver parts of sessions.
  • Arranging 'buddying' systems amongst small groups of learners so that they can support each other by collecting handouts etc should anyone miss training, or to work together on research or revision. Groups are from between two to four learners, sometimes from the same employer or from different employers who are geographically close to each other.
  • Including the experiences of learners in the workplace in discussions and assignments.
  • Emphasis on enabling learners to develop personal and social skills. Group projects, for example, can help learners to gain self-discipline, self-esteem and self-confidence.
  • Using staff whenever possible who have experience of the workplace; arranging industrial updating placements for provider staff where required.
  • Making learning objectives clear at the start of each training session (so that learners are aware of what they need to know). Examples include displaying aims and learning outcomes on special boards in teaching rooms.
  • Starting sessions with a thorough recap of the previous session, such as a quiz of previous learning.
  • Where a session is part of a series, ensuring a degree of continuity and progression between sessions. Planning can illustrate the relevance of each part of the programme and how the sessions progressively develop the learners' knowledge and skills.
  • Supporting the sessions with good quality materials and practical examples relevant to the workplace. There are many examples of materials being available online via an intranet that can be accessed by learners while not attending a training centre.
  • Finding ways to enable learners to enjoy and participate in their training, say through group discussions or giving short presentations, so that they find sessions more interesting.
  • Where possible, delivering sessions at a brisk pace, keeping learners well motivated and generating learner participation.
  • Delivering topics and demonstrations in incremental stages to support learner understanding. Summarising sessions at the end and checking learners' understanding at regular intervals with directed questioning, quizzes or short tests. Time is clearly allocated for consolidating learning at the end of each session.
  • In practical sessions, getting learners to evaluate their own performance, identifying their strengths and areas for improvement.
  • Inspiring learners by having outside speakers or trainers such as a Michelin starred chef or an Olympic medallist (referred to as 'master classes').
  • Giving learners and their employers regular feedback on the progress that that they are making (through reviews and reports).
  • Ensuring that areas are not taught in isolation. Theory should be linked to practical work in work-based training. For E2E the three strands (personal and social development programmes; opportunities to develop vocational skills and knowledge; literacy, numeracy and language provision) are not be taught in isolation. Where appropriate they are integrated, with perhaps greater emphasis for a particular learner on the strand where most difficulties lie.
  • Include off-the-job training in quality improvement activities, for example, observation, learner surveys and programme review.
  • Some training staff always get learners to evaluate individual training sessions by asking what went well or badly, in order to improve the session the next time it is delivered. When done effectively this promotes better learning.

Healthcheck questions

Health check

How much flexibility is there in starting points for learners to access off-the-job training?

How do you ensure that the off-the-job training sessions are planned as part of a complete programme?

Do learners and their employers have copies of training programme activities?

If you have a ‘buddying’ system in place how effectively does it enable learners to support each other?

Is each off-the-job training session planned with clear objectives and linked to other sessions?

From your observations of training, give examples of how learners are  challenged and stimulated.

How do you ensure that learning materials and training methods used reflect current industrial practice?

From your observations of training, how is health and safety reinforced and are safe working practices always followed?

If online training materials are available, can all learners access them (how is this checked)?

How do you ensure that trainers have sufficient occupational knowledge and experience?

How can apprentices apply off-the-job training in the workplace?

How is off-the-job training evaluated?

What improvements have been made as a result?

What could you do next to improve your provision?

  • Read inspection reports to identify what the best providers are doing in your particular type of provision or area of learning (also check other types of provision as good practice is usually transferable between inspection contexts - adult and community learning, college, DWP, work-based, etc). As well as looking at providers with ‘outstanding’ aspects or monitoring visit reports with judgements of ‘significant progress’, look at providers who are similar to yourself in terms of remit, size and what they offer – Ofsted inspection reports
  • Get a clearer and richer understanding of what you need to do to improve – Learner-centred self-assessment
  • Use downloadable quality-improvement resources to develop your staff team and to focus on actions that will help to improve your provision – Actions for quality improvement
  • Adopt or adapt the best bits of other providers’ work that inspection has identified as being particularly effective – Ofsted good practice database examples
  • Measure just how effective your initial-assessment system is and if your quality-improvement initiatives are working – Data projects
  • Develop a blueprint for initial assessment of your learners – Initial assessment and support
  • Check whether your self-assessment report is fit for purpose – Self-assessment surgery projects
  • Use the guidance developed by Ofsted to know what to expect in order to prepare for inspection, look at the Ofsted inspection handbook for your remit or the inspection toolkit – use the search box if necessary - inspection handbooks and toolkit
  • Use the Excellence Gateway as a first ‘port of call’ when researching areas that you would like to improve. As well as the Ofsted-related area, simple word searches will bring you a variety of information about what others in the learning and skills sector are doing to improve their provision. This is particularly useful for any newer areas that you may wish to research.