The training industry is continuously changing, says Terri Rehkop, director of training development for SOS Intl. In the following Q&A, she shares how she got involved in the industry and how she is helping to develop training to meet clients' needs.
Q: How does your current position help you in developing training —and how does your experience help you in this role?
A: As director of training development, my role is to provide support to our team of IDs and SMEs. I manage budgets and track costs, so they can focus on what they do best – develop effective, engaging training. I make sure they have the tools they need, then get out of the way. We have a great team who focuses on both our bookshelf training and client-specific training.
My background is in marketing communications, so focusing on how to best communicate a message to an audience is what I do. I have been able to help the team craft content and scripts so we’re clearly communicating the information students need to know.
Q: When and why did you decide to go into your particular career field?
A: I decided early – I was on the newspaper in high school and found the whole process fascinating. I was drawn more to the sales and marketing side, enjoying the strategy and challenge of communicating product and service benefits to prospective audiences. I majored in journalism in college, but followed the advertising track and worked at advertising agencies after graduation. Over time, I focused more and more on the communication side – what is the key piece of information someone needs to know? That strategy transfers well to training in we need to communicate key information to students to make sure they learn what we need to them to.
Q: What is the best thing about your job right now?
A: Working with such a diverse group of experts. We have training SMEs and industry SMEs and people who are a combination. The discussions and strategizing are amazing. We’re working hard to update and enhance our online training while supporting our instructors and classroom training. It’s a fun time to work in training because the technology advances are making many things possible and affordable that haven’t been before. We are working on video development, virtual reality and simulation. Our future looks completely different than it did even 12 months ago.
Q: What courses and content have you developed in the past, and what’s coming up?
A: Our team is constantly working on our bookshelf. We just launched several new courses including Math for System Operators, Contingency Analysis with Simulation and Transmission Application with Simulation. We’ve also launched the first simulator specifically for distribution to complement our Distribution Control Center training program.
Q: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your past experience as an instructional designer that you want to communicate to trainers, students or participants?
A: Make sure you’re communicating clearly. Use concise, simple language. Students shouldn’t have to translate a long, complex sentence to figure out what they’re supposed to learn. Make it easy for students to learn.
Q: Why do you think your job as an instructional designer is important to the industry? How does it help the students and the utilities?
A: I’ve come to appreciate the importance of helping the customer decide what they need to enhance or improve their training program for their learners. Often times, customers find themselves in search of solutions to challenges. I think as instructional designers, we’re able to see the big picture of an organization’s training program and help fill in the gaps to help learners improve their knowledge and skills, which, in turn, strengthens the outcomes of their training.
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time—do you see that as a complete escape or an extension of your career?
A: My first love is reading, which is both an escape and an extension. Through books, I experience different ways of communicating by reading different genres and authors. I can apply their methods and techniques to the language we use to communicate technical topics. I also enjoy cooking and hiking which are more true escapes.