Making training more engaging - How modern methods help get the message across

Dean Cowling is business improvement co-ordinator at Henry Boot Construction in Derbyshire. He says modern training methods are vital to keeping his company competitive, clean and safe.  

I’ve worked in construction for eight years and oversee health and safety, quality and environmental issues at Henry Boot. In recent years we’ve seen more emphasis on the environmental impact of building sites.

Also as a company we have to maintain our accreditation for environmental management standard ISO 14001.

Without that certificate we probably wouldn’t even get on the tender list for some jobs.

Not taking any chances

Sometimes we have to push things with clients who aren’t as up to speed about environmental legislation.

When you explain what you can take on site and what you can’t take on site, they look at you with blank faces. There’s a lot of education of clients involved for us, but people are starting to get their heads around it.

As a group we understand the environmental measures and impacts on site. You can have quite a dangerous impact on the environment in ways people wouldn’t have thought about. Waste for example. A lot of people think we just get a skip but there’s a lot more to it than that.

Relevant, useful, practical

I was among the first to sign up for the Site Environmental Awareness Training Scheme (SEATS), along with around a dozen colleagues.

I hate anything that’s just talk, talk, talk because you can’t take it in properly, but this was like a workshop with the leader firing off questions and getting us to do group exercises.

I’d recommend this kind of hands-on training to other construction businesses because everything was relevant to what we do day to day. You go away thinking that was a good day.

From my point of view it was good to see what my site managers and surveyors were being told. Now they can’t turn round and say they haven’t been told something.

Training is important because there’s a duty of care around how we use a site, which includes knowing about proper certification. It’s all about protecting the company.

Top tips on making training more engaging


John Middleton is the Principal Lecturer in Leadership, Management, Innovation and Sustainability at the National Construction College. He says changing your approach to training has big benefits.

1. Keep training hands-on

Practical people need practical methods - so put training into context by using tools like case studies, discussions, computer-generated models or even games. These kinds of hands-on methods work for everyone.

2. Keep it relevant and useful 

The respectful and practical approach helps people engage with the training and take what they’ve learned back to their sites. Discussions about real situations and practical tasks mean people can put what they’ve learned straight to work.

3. Don't drone on from the front

Training has come a long way from sitting in a classroom being told what to do. The traditional ‘I speak, you listen’ method of training is long gone.

4. Don't forget the pressures people face

A mature discussion led by someone who can see things from their perspective - because they're been there themselves in a previous job - is very effective in getting your message across. 

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