In educational efficiency, defense can learn from commerce.
By Paul Swinscoe
Transforming the training needs for future generations entering the Armed Forces requires vision, change, and engagement. The culmination of this process will be the largest vocational training college in the U.K., delivering specialist technical training to the tri-services of the U.K. Armed Forces. A complex project on such a large scale takes a multitude of resources.
Helping the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to turn this vision into reality is Metrix, a consortium of companies that is working together to deliver both the training service and the facilities at a new site at St. Athan. Besides being tasked with the curriculum redesign and development, Metrix partner Raytheon is tasked with the training management and support in this program.
The British Armed Forces is renowned for being one of the best in world. It has a well-
established and effective training program that has one main goal: to prepare the sailor, soldier, or airman to deliver at the frontline, something the MoD refers to as Operational Capability. But, as Lieutenant Commander Gary Standen of the Royal Navy explains, there were other aspects within the training facilities that could be improved.
Targeting the Training of Future Recruits
“The military is different, and we do things very differently,” says Lt. Cdr. Standen. “However, there are many parallels with the commercial world, and we face similar challenges to be more efficient and deliver value for money. We are confident that our training is second to none, but how efficient is it? Will it meet the needs of our future recruits? What will a five-year-old today be expecting in the classroom in 15 or 20 years’ time?”
“We discovered that 80 percent of the specialist technical training provided separately to the Army, Navy, and RAF is actually quite similar. Although some small-scale transformations to rationalize training had occurred, these were stove-piped and not joined–up across the services. We needed to make substantial changes to the way we deliver training now, to ensure that we can continue to develop our training programs and adapt to future requirements.”
It became clear that a complete rationalization of the training, facilities, and management was required to deliver a modern, cost-effective, technical specialist training to the tri-services. Consolidation of training facilities that currently included nine separate schools and colleges catering to 6,500 students on any given day, along with 3,000 management and support staff into one site, while retaining each service identity was one of the biggest challenges.
However, the Defence Training Rationalisation Programme (DTR) would require considerable resources and in-depth experience to undertake a transformation on such a large scale. Recognizing its own limitations, the MoD decided to look for a partner to help realize its vision to provide world-class training facilities. There was one proviso: at no point could Operational Capability be compromised.
Training for the tri-services is split into three defined categories: the basic training recruits receive to join a service, the professional training required to do their jobs, and the ongoing training throughout their careers. Phase One, basic military training, cannot be outsourced. It has to be delivered by the military. However, the technical specialist and ongoing training that already had input from civilians would be suitable to be delivered by a third party under the control of the MoD.
Strategy and Command
For the last year, Raytheon has been working with the people who will be transferred from the civil service to work for Raytheon and with the military trainers who will be seconded to work alongside them at St. Athan. Together, they have been following Raytheon’s structured approach to transformation. Developed over years of experience, Raytheon Six Sigma™ encompasses all areas of the transformation process—from stakeholder involvement to identifying common processes and winning the hearts and minds of individuals that can help make the change.
Key to the success of Raytheon Six Sigma™ is the collection of data throughout the transformation process that is used to engage those involved, evaluate courses, and identify potential undesirable effects. When a third of the cost of a training system is typically spent on managing it, finding common aspects such as reporting and support can help to significantly lower both direct and indirect costs.
In addition, Raytheon Six Sigma™ helps to optimize training courses. It looks at the value of each course and what the student gained from it.
Currently the MoD’s specialist technical training consists of more than 1,000 courses; internal validation of each of these will help to highlight training duplication or classes that simply serve limited purposes now, at a time when operational needs have moved on. Raytheon believes that redesigning training systems can lead to up to as much as a 25 percent reduction in training time, with no loss in the student’s ability to perform in the workplace.
Engaging with the Stakeholders
“At first, there was resistance to change,” continues Lt. Cdr. Standen. “But Raytheon’s workshops broke down barriers, and people started to understand why one service or training site did something different to the others. They have even started to incorporate changes ahead of the full transformation, where they can see an immediate benefit. Both the military instructors and their counterparts in the civil service can see their role in the new facilities and are excited by it. They have an appetite to change, which will help make the DTR program a success.”
When transformation is complete, the courses will be a mixture of hands-on and lecture-based, with many taking advantage of newer technologies such as web-based classrooms, simulation, and emulation. In designing and developing the new curricula, Raytheon is keen to use technology to enhance the structure of training—but is careful to ensure that it does not take over from course requirements.
Although many of the courses will take place in the new training facility at St. Athan, the use of technology will also allow some aspects of training to take place away from the main center, thus providing operational flexibility in addition to measurable savings on travel costs.
“From the MoD’s perspective, the output—providing the Operational Capability where it’s needed—is the most important driver,” says Lt. Cdr. Standen. “However, we also recognize that we need to partner with someone who is able to deliver in the mediums that people will expect to be in use in the classroom.”
He also adds some historical perspective. “When I first joined in the eighties, training was mainly chalk and talk. This gave way to PowerPoint and now computer games. However, whether it’s social networking today or who knows what in 20 years’ time, innovation and the ability to continually develop courses are the key considerations.”
Taking the decision to outsource some aspects of the Defence Training Rationalisation (DTR) Programme has enabled the Ministry of Defence to benefit from industry expertise, while spreading some of the financial risk. When complete, the training operation at St. Athan will become a center of excellence, providing the training needs at least for the next 30 years, ensuring that the U.K. Armed Forces position of the best in the world remains secure.
Paul Swinscoe is the director of business development for Raytheon Professional