As a field of professional inquiry, what we know as workplace learning or talent development hasn’t been around for long.

Maybe a hundred years or so if you go back to Taylorism and B F Skinner.  A little longer if you include thought leaders like John Dewey.  However, as an activity of survival, workplace learning has been an important activity since the world began.

In a Nutshell

For fear of over-simplifying the history or training, I’m sharing what I call a potted history of training just to remind learning and talent professionals that what we do follows more of a time-honored tradition than many think.

The skills of hunting and gathering were passed on from parents and older siblings.  That’s probably the earliest form of workplace learning.

In the middle ages, apprenticeships became important.  The apprentice would literally go and live with the family of the trade master to learn the skills.  Sometimes the apprenticeship would last six or seven years.

When the industrial revolution came along, apprenticeships which were ideal for cottage industry were quickly replaced by mass training as factory owners needed hundreds of people to operate new machines.

Over the past century we’ve been much more sophisticated ways of looking at how we equip our workforce with skills.  Many theories have developed which have in turn informed the way we do things.

Workplace Learning and Talent Development: It’s Important Work

But it’s important to remember that workplace learning has always existed.  And as such, I’d like to suggest it’s an honorable field to be in because trainers and talent professionals help individuals develop new skills.  These new skill help careers and income.  And these new or deepened skills help organizations which in turn help support society at large.

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