Related News

Home » Feature

Training your sights on business

FRANK Liu, a 34-year-old former financial consultant, became a professional business trainer three years ago and is envied by friends and colleagues who see him in a lucrative "gold collar" job.

He's got money, potential and a good future.

Training employees in skills such as communication and customer relations is getting to be big business. Demand is growing for training in management, team building, negotiating, public speaking and other skills.

But the field in China is brand new, wide open and unregulated.

As a "gold collar," Liu gets paid around 5,000 yuan (US$732) by companies for a day's training in communication skills and customer relations, his speciality. That's almost twice the monthly salary of many fresh graduates in Shanghai. He has been doing this for three years.

It is said that some top trainers can earn more than 30,000 yuan for a day, about the monthly salary of a department head in a large international company in Shanghai.

However, the profession of professional business coaching still faces a lot of problems in China, such as lack of accepted standards, lack of high-quality trainers, the gap between expectations and outcomes, and a wide disparity in compensation.

"I do earn more than most people, but it's not as great as many people expect or as much as the promotional materials claim," says Liu. He has both a mid-level national professional trainer's certificate and an international one from Britain.

Many people who call themselves "professional trainers" lack adequate skills and credentials.

In the West, many corporate trainers are hired by companies. That's well established. In addition, professional trainers help individuals define and realize their career goals and visions. There are also so-called life coaches and personal trainers.

In China, however, training/coaching is overwhelmingly about employee business skills training financed by their companies. Most people don't like to admit they're dissatisfied with their career and seeking outside guidance on changing their lives, just as they don't like to admit they are seeing a psychotherapist or counselor.

There is no official professional association for Chinese trainers, though there are events held by Hong Kong-based associations, such as IPTS, the International Professional Training Business Society.

The society with an office in Shanghai holds training programs for trainers and later taps them in its own talent pool to help companies. It offers certificates of different ranks and is trying to help regulate the new industry/profession.

There are no official statistics on the number of trainers or market projections.

It is difficult to find useful information about how to become a professional trainer, although a few organizations offer different kinds of certificates.

Most of the top and most trusted trainers in Shanghai are veterans from Hong Kong and Taiwan.

According to IPTS, their trainers get from 4,000 yuan to more than 10,000 yuan for a day's training, depending on their rankings.

"There is a lot of potential in this industry, but the market is not regulated yet," IPTS Chairman Tao Jianguo said in a recent interview.

"For example, the pricing system is rather chaotic. Some trainers ask for thousands while others 10 times more. It also attracts many unqualified trainers to enter the market."

The professional trainer master adds that the market needs a good industrial association to conduct annual evaluations and hold programs for trainers.

"We have very few good professional trainers from the Chinese mainland right now," said Tao.

Tao hopes official professional standards will be developed, along with a self-monitoring system.

He says he is confident that "any behavior violating the market rules will be removed from the market."

IPTS also holds training programs for wanna-be trainers who find it difficult to find information and enter the industry.

Although many night schools and training organizations provide lessons and certificates, it is hard to tell which ones are most useful.

"The domestic market for trainers is huge, but it's still not a systematic and regulated profession," says Liu. "Unlike many jobs you can put on your resume, certificates are not as useful for trainers as they should be in a mature industry and market."

It's difficult to break in since work depends mostly on experience and there are few professional trainers under the age of 30 or 35, he says. "Many people hop to this industry with loads of experience from former jobs."

Liu considers himself a greenhorn with three years' experience in a Shanghai-based consulting company. He has held training for many medium-sized companies, mostly in communication skills, but it's difficult to win new customers because of his age.

"They usually prefer foreign trainers or those from Hong Kong or Taiwan because that looks higher-end," he says. Even when they go local, they look for someone older, often in their 50s.

"It's understandable that older people are considered more experienced," says Liu.

And 29-year-old HR assistant Linda Fang agrees. She works for a medium-sized joint-venture trading company and is in charge of arranging regular employee training sessions.

It's easier to get the boss' approval for a foreign trainer, even one without a certificate or one in a different field. The next "best" are trainers from Hong Kong or Taiwan, holding an international certificate and speaking good English.

"We also try local trainers because it's much cheaper, but I need to find someone either with a lot of experience in training or in trading. I can't just find anybody to train our employees," she says.

Finding a good trainer isn't as easy as she had thought at first.

Fang's company used to invite celebrities and university professors to give training sessions before the job description "professional trainer" became popular.

Celebrities may be famous and successful but they're expensive and may not be good communicators and teachers. Many cannot give practical advice.

Two years ago Fang's company turned to the new "hip" breed of trainer but came up against a lack of information and standards.

"The market and industry are so new that we don't really know about it at all. I cannot find a list of top 10 trainers in Shanghai or anything like that," Fang says.

All the materials she has come from training agencies, schools or magazines that make promises and hype their outcomes.

"The results of the sessions are not that great," Fang complains.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend