On-the-job training: What you need to know

Wondering what learning on the job actually means? 

Training is an essential part of any job,giving you the skills and knowledge you need to do your job safely and correctly. It also helps to strengthen your current skill set, and prepares you for the next stage in your career.  

The type of training an employer chooses to provide will generally be determined by the needs of the business, the resources available and the specific tasks tied to the job. So you’re prepared for what it can involve, here’s our guide to on-the-job training:  


What is on-the-job training? 

It may seem obvious from the name, but on-the-job training is quite simply training which takes place in the workplace – usually administered by your manager, or co-workers.

On-the-job training  helps you to acquire the knowledge, skills and confidence to do your job efficiently. Generally this is done by listening to others explain and demonstrate key processes and procedures, and then carrying out these tasks yourself under their supervision.


Who is eligible for on-the-job training? 

Everyone is eligible to take part in on-the-job training,  regardless of age or previous experience. However, an employer may specifically choose to offer on-the-job training to employees who lack practical experience. This could be because they haven’t done this type of job before, or if they’re returning to work after a career break and certain processes and procedures have changed in this time. 


Benefits of on-the-job training

When it’s focused, specific to the neds of the employee and designed around the responsibilities of the role, on-the-job training has several stand-out advantages. Some benefits of on-the-job training include: 

  • It’s free
  • It’s flexible
  • It’s easy to access 
  • It’s tailored to the role (and needs of the employee)
  • It’s social – helping you get to know different members of the team


Different types of on-the-job training 

There are different ways an employer can conduct on-the-job training. These can be described as structured or unstructured, and blended or standalone training. Here’s an explanation of what each approach may involve: 


Structured v unstructured on-the-job training

A structured training programme has been designed by the employer (or training provider), and can involve an employee moving through the varying stages of training before they are signed off by a supervisor or manager. Examples of structured on-the-job training are apprenticeships and internships.  

What’s covered in a structured on-the-job training programme will depend on the employer and the job you’ll be doing. It could include an overview of the company and company policies and procedures, an introduction to the team, safety training and training on the company’s IT equipment and software.  

An unstructured approach to on-the-job training could see you shadowing a colleague for several days or weeks to understand how they approach the job. It may also see you shadowing several colleagues to learn what different departments do. 

One of the main advantages of a structured approach over an unstructured programme is that it’s more effective at preparing you to do your job. This is because the programme has been designed around the needs of the job and should cover everything you need to know. 


Standalone v blended on-the-job training

Standalone training can see you shadowing colleagues or learning through practical experience. This type of training can work well for jobs that aren’t necessarily highly skilled or where the person has previous experience in a similar role. 

Blended training may see you taking part in on-the-job training and other forms of training such as elearning or classroom learning, for example. Suppose your new job is in an industry that you have no experience in, the HR department or department leader may decide that shadowing an experienced colleague and supplementing this with knowledge gained from webinars and online courses is the best form for training for you. 

Blended training is suited to highly skilled jobs or jobs that involve carrying out specialist tasks, for example jobs in manufacturing, engineering or production. Blended training can also be effective in regulated industries, like medicine, banking or finance, where employees have to follow strict processes and procedures. 


Examples of on-the-job training 

In theory, on-the-job training can be used by any type of employer, but it’s particularly effective in jobs where theoretical knowledge supports the practical tasks of the role. Some examples of jobs where on-the-job training is used are: 



Most plumbers become qualified by completing a four-year apprenticeship. The apprentice shadows and learns first-hand from an experienced and qualified plumber, while also attending college to learn the fundamentals of plumbing.  

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The route to becoming a qualified teacher involves a mixture of studying and hands-on experience, gained through on-the-job training that’s carried out in an educational setting ( such as  a school). For someone who already has a degree, they can enrol on a postgraduate initial teacher training course. Those who haven’t got a degree can enrol on an undergraduate course to gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS)

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There are several routes into nursing, and one of the most popular is with an apprenticeship. The Registered Nurse Degree Apprenticeship (RNDA) takes approximately four to five years to complete. The apprenticeship involves a mixture of part-time study and practical experience in hospitals, clinics and surgeries. 

View all nursing courses

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