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Training vs. Education: What’s the difference?

Posted by Jeff Welch on 3/27/14 4:00 AM
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Having facilitated train-the-trainer workshops for the past 13 years, I’ve experienced my fair share of debate and discussion around the terms “training” and “education.” Are they the same thing? Are they different entities? The debate continues.

At Langevin Learning Services, we define the two terms as follows:

  • Training – provides learners with the skills and knowledge to perform the tasks on their current jobs. It is short term and immediate.
  • Education – provides learners with the knowledge and skill to prepare them for a future job, typically their next one.

Based on our definitions, we are of the belief that training and education are indeed different entities. Are there certain similarities and overlap between the two? Absolutely. However, we stand firm in the belief that training and education are not the same thing.

Those attending a true training course spend an ample amount of time learning how to do something. The objectives are application or performance based. Examples might include: operate a forklift, conduct an interview, or enter data into a database. Lastly, (and perhaps most importantly), in training a significant amount of time is spent allowing the learner to practice and refine the skill that is being taught.

Those attending a course that is more education-oriented may spend significant time learning about the subject-matter or content. The objectives are more knowledge or non-performance based. Examples might include: identify the importance of a diverse workplace, define the theory of evolution, and list the steps of how a bill becomes a law. Lastly, more time is spent learning the history, theory, and/or significant concepts.

Just because training and education are different from each other, this in no way suggests one is better or more important than the other. As a matter of fact, they both accentuate each other very well. I came to this conclusion when I was employed as a flight attendant for a major U.S. airline.

My former colleagues in the cockpit (pilots, first officers, flight engineers, etc.) received hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of training at our learning academy in Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas. They were trained on skills such as performing safety checks, communicating with air traffic control, and monitoring radar equipment, just to name a few. In addition to their skill-based training, they also received a very thorough education. They studied and learned subject-matter such as physics, weather patterns, critical thinking, and decision making.

Essentially, training gives the cockpit crew members the skills to perform their job—operate an aircraft. While education gives them the knowledge, especially in terms of safety, to perform that job better. When I put my life in their hands, from wheels up to wheels down, I was thankful for both their training and their education!

In corporate training, your courses will likely have an element of both training and education. And much like my airline example, this is a good thing.

If your learners need to be trained on how to do something, spend time teaching the skills and, more importantly, let them practice those skills. If your learners need to know why those skills are performed or what the consequences would be if not performed properly, spend time providing them information that will give them that needed knowledge.



Jeff has been a course leader with Langevin since 2000. He completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in both Speech Communications and Broadcasting from Western Kentucky University. Before pursuing his passion for training, Jeff worked as a television reporter, flight attendant, fitness instructor, and tour guide. Jeff started his career in training at the daily newspaper in Atlanta. Training seemed to be a natural fit for him since he’s always been a bit of a performer. When at home, you’ll catch Jeff watching a cooking show, recreating a dish he’s eaten abroad, or exploring one of the many great restaurants in the Chicago area. During the summer months, he hits the road to follow the talented drum corps of Drum Corp International—something he’s done since high school!

Topics: instructor-led training, tips-for-trainers

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Our very own world-class course leaders share their experiences, tips, best practices, and expertise on virtual training, instructional design, needs analysis, e-learning, delivery, evaluation, presentation skills, facilitation, and much more!

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