How to Evaluate a Corporate Trainer

By Jon Wollenhaupt

Corporate TrainerFinding the right corporate trainer is essential to the success of employee development programs. Having a well-established vetting process in place is critical; the success of any training program hinges on the talents of the person delivering the instruction.

One-on-One with John Milburn

For this article, Upskill California spoke with John Milburn, Director of the Employee Training Institute at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, Calif. about how he vets and assesses a corporate trainer who will deliver programs to his clients.

The Critical Factors When Vetting a Corporate Trainer

When I’m interviewing a potential trainer for a program, I evaluate their industry experience and how that experience relates to the program they’ll be teaching. If they’re teaching blueprint reading, I want to see that they’ve done that on the job. If I need a Lean Six Sigma instructor, I look for someone who has extensive industry experience, has the appropriate certifications, and has been teaching adults for many years. I don’t want to hand a program for an important manufacturing client over to somebody who is new to teaching or has limited experience.

Therefore, the first things I ask myself are, did they perform the skills they will be teaching on the job? Did they progress in their job? Did they rise to a management role in their department? Do they really understand the industry? Are they in some significant way currently connected to industry? Then I look closely at how long they have been teaching people and in what capacities. The best candidates will say things like, “I started out coaching on the job, teaching others in this skills area. Over time, I realized I had a passion for this and that I was really good at mentoring and coaching others. Now, instead of making the parts, I train other people to make them. And then I started my own corporate training company, and I’ve been doing this for 10 years.” That’s the person I trust for our clients’ teaching programs. Those are my best corporate trainers.

In addition to experience, I’m also assessing their attitude toward training. I want to hear that they love it, that they’re passionate about it, that being in the classroom is where they want to be, that it is what they are dedicated to.

Corporate Trainer

Assessing a Trainer’s Education Level

I take into consideration a person’s education level, but I don’t require they have a master’s or a bachelor’s degree unless the area of expertise is Leadership, because most corporate training topics are applied learning. It is a plus when someone has a four-year degree or a master’s because that means they have sensitivity to education. In general, I have found that the higher the level of education a person has, the better understanding they have of what needs to happen in the classroom. 

That said, two of my best manufacturing instructors only have high school diplomas, and yet they are remarkable industry experts and trainers. They’ve both been working in manufacturing since they graduated high school, and they’ve been working in the industry ever since. They’ve been dedicated to growing and investing in themselves and have earned several certificates. Typically, however, I do prefer the trainers I hire to have an undergraduate degree, and I usually work with instructors who hold their doctorate degree for those teaching Leadership and Management topics.

A Calling to Teach

Most people involved in workplace training and education have a calling for it. I felt that calling myself and realized it was what I wanted to do; therefore, I expect to hear from trainers that this is what they live for, what they love. When someone has that passion, it typically is reflected in the quality of their teaching. It also indicates they are passionate about learning and are continually improving their teaching skills. When you find a corporate trainer like that, it pretty much guarantees your client will be happy because they’ll see the performance results they are looking for from that particular training program.

Assessing the Performance of a Corporate Trainer

Corporate TrainerWe run post-training evaluations all the time. On the last day of every training class, 10 minutes are set aside at the end of class so students can fill out an anonymous evaluation form. During the evaluation, students give feedback on the instructor, the program, usefulness of the materials, and what they feel could be improved. We summarize the comments into a document that we share with the instructor. If the class was delivered on-site at the company, we make sure company representatives have a chance to review the evaluations.

We expect 4s and 5s on all aspects of the evaluation. If the reporting reveals something that can be improved, we try to implement whatever is needed to make those improvements. I personally read all of the evaluations. I scan them to see if issues stand out. Once the responses are compiled, I review the summary documents and then go over the results with the client and the instructor, address any issues or concerns, and highlight the positive outcomes.

Not All Corporate Trainers Are the Same

The fact is that not all corporate trainers are created equal. If you use a corporate trainer who’s not able get good results and doesn’t understand what industry expects, you won’t get any repeat business; your program will slowly wither and die.

But if you use a trainer who is a subject matter expert in what they’re teaching, one who knows his or her subject, who has industry experience and understands classroom dynamics, understands adult learning, you will have a successful program. That instructor is going to create repeat business for you because the employees are going to go back to their representatives at their companies, whether they’re in operations or HR, and they’re going to let somebody know that was an excellent class and that they learned a lot. That enthusiasm and knowledge will transfer to their work, especially in technical skills. Your client will see fewer errors as a result of the training. That’s what a successful contract training program is all about.

Learn more about the customized training programs delivered by the California Community Colleges.


Corporate TrainerJohn Milburn has been a corporate trainer and development specialist for more than 17 years. He has a wide-ranging background in economic development, having helped many organizations and thousands of employees with organizational and professional development. He has more than 4,000 hours delivering training and facilitation services for private, public, and nonprofit organizations. As Director of the Employee Training Institute, he develops and delivers training programs aimed at helping local employers respond to changing markets, technology, and the skill development needs of their employees. Milburn holds a Psychology M.A. in Organization Development from Sonoma State University, and a B.A. in Business Administration from California State University, Bakersfield.

Contact John Milburn via email at

About the Employee Training Institute
Based at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, California, The Employee Training Institute (ETI) provides on-site, customized training in most technical skills and business topics such as print reading, lean manufacturing, Six Sigma, project management, geometric dimensioning & tolerancing (GD&T), supervisory skills, management and leadership, and many others. Learn more about ETI.

About the Author
Jon Wollenhaupt is a marketing consultant who writes about topics related to contract education, employee training, and corporate learning for the California Community Colleges. His work is funded by the Technical Assistant Provider (TAP) grant hosted at Mt. San Antonio College. He can be reached via email at


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