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Demystifying Training Needs Assessments

Training Needs Assessment | August 5, 2016

Author: Scott Macpherson

In various ways, TrainingPort has been providing formal Training Needs Assessments (TNAs) for 10 years, since before we began delivering content online. Since then, we have standardized and provided business aviation with hundreds of TNAs. We have also attempted to educate our industry sector on how to do their own TNAs, because the responsibility ultimately rests on the operator to train appropriately and effectively.

Fundamentally, a TNA is simply a gap analysis with a set of recommendations to close the gaps where possible. Gaps exist between different training modes: online trainees can’t feel the heat and stress of putting out a fire when they are reviewing the basics of the fire tetrahedron on an iPad. Practical training and equipment- or company- specific training are natural gaps identified in our training needs assessments on a regular basis.

Regulatory requirements, including any standards to which an operator must operate, are the first basis of recommendations regarding which topics to take and how frequently to take them. This is followed by operations documentation, such as training manuals and operations manuals, which are reviewed to find additional operator commitments to training which exceed (or often conflict with) the foregoing.

What is described above is where most operators stop their gap analysis and begin to develop their training programs, if they do the analysis in-house. However, the real responsibility of any operator is to train according to what they actually do, not just what a “one size fits all” regulation or standard prescribes. The key to identifying the actual needs is an active safety management system and its risk data. If the risk data are incorporated into the TNA, then an appropriate and effective program is created for each operator, even for each trainee, if that level of detail is engaged.

Ultimately, a simple view of a TNA is much the same as the simplified view of safety management: describe what you do, train for it, and then prove it.


Scott Macpherson is the President and Founder of and Vice-Chairman of the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) Governing Board. He is currently Captain on a Falcon 900LX.

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