Training to Create Heroes
I recently had the opportunity to see the movie Argo. The lead character, Tony Mendez – played by Ben Affleck, is a CIA extraction expert. That means it is his job to help people the U.S. government considers “important” out of countries where they are in danger. This particular story involves trying to extract six U.S. diplomats from post-revolution Iran. (For those of you that haven’t read about it or seen the movie, I won’t spoil it for you.) Needless to say, if your job is so important that people’s lives depend on your performance, it is essential that you are thoroughly trained and ready for the mission. We’d like to believe that Mendez spent much of his career learning and practicing the essential skills for his job. He had to have studied and practiced foreign languages, foreign cultures, weapons, strategies, and tactics. Although we don’t see this in the movie, we know it to be the case. Mendez’ bosses would not have entrusted him with such an important mission if they weren’t certain he was the best person for the job.
As someone who has performed trainings both here and abroad, of course I feel training is important. Otherwise, why do it? In these tight budget times, some organizations are unwisely trimming and cutting their training budgets. We all know of the operation that barely complies with mandated training hours but really is just going “through the motions.” They might look the other way when a portion of the pre-trip is skipped. They might overlook a student’s serious medical issue. They might even ignore or minimize a parent’s complaint. When what they see or hear doesn’t match what they trained, instead of revising or increasing training, these managers often point to compliance with the mandated minimums. Unfortunately, when something goes wrong they use the same reasoning to assuage their guilt.
For those transporting students or educating students with special needs, many more than the six lives with which Mendez was concerned are actually on the line every day. Our customers expect and deserve a level of performance which is exemplary. Modifying a famous quote from Seneca: “Heroism results when training and opportunity meet.” It’s our job to ensure that the expertise really is there and ready for our critical mission. I know I take the responsibility of training very seriously. Those I respect in our profession do as well. We don’t have Ben Affleck making movies about what we do. Our heroic efforts get less publicity. However, make no mistake about it, they are no less important.