There is no doubt, the extent to which society utilizes its human potential is among the principal determinants of its prosperity (McKinsey, 2009). In the economic arena, one focus of concern in this regard has been the precarious links between the education and labor markets.
Primarily, the lack of working experience means that fresh graduates have constricted chances of smoothly transitioning into the labor market. For this reason, students who want to quickly access full-time employment have to undergo on the job training (OJT) before the completion of their studies. Interestingly, even though on the job training has been around for a while, many students have not fully wrapped their heads around it.
To shed critical light on this matter, this article reveals all the intricate details about this vital OJT process. It discusses the definition, types, and benefits of on the job training. The goal is to enable students to get a hang of OJT as early as possible and grab opportunities as they come. This way, they can boost their employability and put in place a professional “safety net” for after graduation.
First things first, what is OJT? On the job training is a hands-on method of imparting the vital knowledge, skills, and competencies required for employees to accomplish specific tasks within the workplace. According to Garavan et al., on the job training represents a set of processes that happen within a specific organizational context and involve assimilating and acquiring integrated clusters of values, skills, knowledge, and feelings that lead to fundamental changes in behaviors of a worker or teams (Nakahara & Matsuo, 2013).
As a training program for students, OJT is designed to immerse learners in work environments relevant to their area of study in an attempt to learn knowledge on, productivity in, and respect for the workplace. Beyond helping students apply the principles, ideas, and theories learned in the classroom, it enables them to level up their technical skills, knowledge, and attitude towards work (Career, n.d). This way, it enables students to gain work experience and in most cases (6 out of 10), it converts into full-time employment (Adams, 2012). This is backed by recent studies showing that 56.1% of interns get converted into employees (NACE, 2019).
Source: NACE 2019 Internship & Co-op Survey Report
One intriguing fact to note, however, is that various terms are used across the globe for on the job training for students (e.g. apprenticeship, internships, and placements), and are not always clearly defined (Mulder, Messmann, & Konig, 2015). As a result, the terms may differ in the purpose and intent of the training, legal status, and obligation of the trainee involved.
The probability of a fresh graduate finding employment increases with the time since graduation (Garrouste & Rodrigues, 2012). This simply means that the transition from education to the labor market is particularly difficult immediately after graduation. To streamline this process, employers and learning institutions advocate for better implementation of student’s on the job training.
So, when is the best time for students to join on the job training experience?
The answer is, at the tail end of an academic journey. This is because OJT functions as a springboard to a better career and when administered close to or immediately after graduation, its effectiveness is optimized. In this regard, some institutions require students to complete a specific number of hours of on the job training as a prerequisite for graduation with bachelor’s, advanced diploma, or diploma.
This is not always the case, however, since in some countries such as Germany and Denmark, on the job training is perfectly embedded into the curriculum (Mulder, Messmann, & Konig, 2015). This program, known as the dual apprenticeship system, aims to help students aged 16 to 19 years take up on-the-job training as part of their degree course. With this system, instead of spending the entire semester at school, students will spend 70% of their learning time in a workplace and 30% in a classroom (Expatrio, n.d). The program takes approximately three years and almost certainly leads to secure employment.
On the job training is a program that students take to gain hands-on experience in the workplace and increase employability. It is a meticulously structured plan with clearly outlined phases and procedures that need to be adhered to.
One thing you ought to know is that, while the student is the intended beneficiary of the entire process, he/she is not the sole partaker. The OJT coordinator, the institution through relevant departments, partner OJT institution (workplace), and onsite supervisor, all play a hugely significant role in seeing out this program. With all these people taking part, it begs the question of who really conducts the on the job training for students.
To precisely respond, the OJT is conducted by the on-site supervisor. The supervisor is responsible for assigning roles to trainees and determining which department in the organization they can best apply principles, ideas, and theories acquired in the academe. In addition, he/she is tasked with supervising the student for the duration of the OJT and evaluating performance using stipulated standards of the school (Career, n.d).
Moreover, the supervisor regularly meets with the faculty practicum coordinator to discuss observations and issues that arise during the training. Upon completion of on the job training, the on-site supervisor prepares a detailed evaluation of the student and submits it to the practicum coordinator for further action (Career, n.d). However, it is to be noted that the faculty practicum coordinator is in charge of the OJT program’s overall implementation, monitoring, and evaluation.
On the job training is an active employment policy measure aimed at increasing employability and competitiveness in the labor markets. But, since employability is a complex concept that blends multiple aspects such as motivation, knowledge, skills, and attitudes (CRELL, 2012), students can approach OJT in a number of ways.
The most common methods of on the job training for students include:
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Put simply, students who undertake an on the job training program learn practical skills and procedures for their position or industry. But beyond this, there is a whole continuum of things for students to learn. They include:
In a modern workplace, on the job training is a highly effective policy tool used to shape the skills of the existing employees and attune them to the specific needs of the firm (Almeida & Faria). For students, however, OJT is heralded as a rare opportunity to find a firm grip on the industry or role they wish to pursue.
It gives students the first real taste of work without throwing them into the deep end straight away. And, when utilized properly, it delivers a host of benefits. Among them are the following:
On the job training comes at a time when students are at the bottom of the career ladder. Even though they have amassed valuable theoretical knowledge at this point, they are still rough gems that need polishing to fit into the fast-paced work environment.
During the on the job training, trainees learn by observing, asking questions, and taking measured risks to make the most of the opportunity. Additionally, they receive constructive criticism from the supervisor and coworkers. The feedback helps them learn more about their strengths and weaknesses, embrace their mistakes, and gain relevant skills from distinguished professionals in the industry.
Moreover, on the job training helps trainees master professional skills such as teamwork, time management, communication, and adaptability. These are some of the most sought after soft skills, and acquiring them gives the trainee an edge in the job market. Actually, 57% of industry leaders say soft skills are more important than hard skills (Petrone, 2018).
Building industry knowledge epitomizes the ultimate goal of taking internships. The hands-on work experience interns garner during the OJT is simply invaluable and cannot be earned in a classroom setting.
Generally, trainees get the opportunity to apply the knowledge acquired in school in a real work environment. They witness, firsthand, the day-to-day duties they will encounter in a real-world setting. Even more, taking part in team meetings, completing minor tasks, and collaborating with coworkers exposes students to how things work in a chosen fieldwork.
This helps build relevant industry knowledge and enables students to learn the roles and responsibilities of a specific position or career. Ultimately, this closes the experience gap and smoothens the transition into the workforce.
In the highly competitive job market, connecting with individuals who are already established in a specific field can supercharge your career growth. Unfortunately, many graduates emerge from school with little to show in terms of the professional network. As such, on the job training is usually the first real opportunity to meet others in the career field you want to pursue.
The professionals you meet during the OJT may be the most valuable stepping stone to a future job. They may recommend you for open roles, and as you already know, recommendations make the most successful job searching strategies. In addition, the people in your field may be a great source of advice and can help make informed decisions about your career.
In some cases, a student may be lucky enough to land an internship that offers some form of compensation. Meaning, you will gain valuable work experience and, at the same time, make money. Financial compensation is usually a timely boost for cash strapped students and it helps cover college tuition and expenses. In the case where the training takes place after graduation, it helps students start employment life on the right footing.
Even better, students who successfully complete on the job training and make a favorable impression are viewed as attractive talents to employers. This is primarily because such students possess excellent soft skills, have exemplary work habits, and demonstrate higher industry and technical skills. Moreover, they are well-versed with general workplace standards and professional norms in their respective fields.
For this reason, many employers in the world prefer to hire junior employees who have completed on the job training. To suffice, in 2019 alone, 56% of interns and 40% of co-op students were hired on a full-time, entry-level basis (NACE, 2020). Even if an offer is not put on the table right away, down the line, it will not take long for an opportunity to come up.
As you have seen, on the job training can deliver tremendous benefits, key amongst which, is that it lays a solid foundation for a successful career. To reap the benefits, however, the student must endeavor to do things right. The following tips can help a trainee to get the most of the on-the-job experience:
Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE)
Hopefully, by now, you have gained full comprehension of the various aspects of on the job training. You understand OJT meaning, the various types OJT, and the benefits it can deliver when successfully completed. Better still, you have learned some of the tips to make the most of the OJT opportunity.
With all these details at your fingertips, chances are, you will breeze through the training and reap the benefits with minimal fuss. But, the seemingly low hanging fruit of on the job training can at times be unreachable. The trick to picking them ripe is maintaining professionalism and approaching every situation with confidence. Remember, to seem more competent, you should be more competent.
Lastly, enjoy your time at the company, experience as many new things as you can, and above all, have a wonderful OJT. But, the highest priority throughout the training is learning and gaining work experience to unlock the next phase of your career. So, in everything you do, align the purpose and intent to this core goal to give your career a flying start.