Is the future of funeral directing in the classroom?

25/10/2018   //   No Comments

SAIF thanks Ollie Christophers of F Christophers & Son Ltd for this article

Working in the funeral profession isn’t something you get much information about in school. The occupation seems to be absent from career days and none of the skills you learn during Activities Week are particularly applicable in a mortuary. Three months into working in the funeral sector and it already feels like a year with the amount of information I’ve picked up ‘on the job’ (OTJ), but with stricter industry regulations looming will OTJ suffice for the funeral sector in 2018 and beyond?

Life after OTJ

The company I’m part of has a strong belief in backing up OTJ with professional vocational training, so last month I was signed up for some Institute of Funeral Directors (IFD) College courses. Discussing established processes and procedures and matching them with what I’d picked up by shadowing my colleagues felt like discovering fire. All the questions simmering away about the wheres and whys of modern funeral practices all started to slot into place. It’s all very well being told how to follow a procedure, but to understand why you need to do it in the first place is vital if you’re going to become a skilled and capable funeral director. I’m extremely glad that our industry has these training events, because when you can’t learn it at school, further education bodies need to pick up the mantle.

Is vocational training for everyone?

The complexities of caring for the deceased, from the paperwork and working practices of third parties to balancing the care and compassion required for the families and friends of the deceased, is something you simply cannot do without developing new skill sets. Even seasoned directors can learn new things in the classroom as times change and practices evolve. I’d encourage everyone to have a skills refresher every now and again – even if it’s just to bring things back to the front of your mind.

Don’t forget the soft skills

To coincide with my IFD courses, I’ve also taken the time to sharpen some of the softer skill sets and enrol in an Emotional Intelligence course. At the end of each day, the physical exertion of removals and pallbearing are far outweighed by the emotional energy used to support distressed and vulnerable families. I’ve quickly found that you need to develop an incredible amount of emotional resilience to be able to give the type of care you need to provide. Developing skills around emotional intelligence has not only helped me improve professionally, it’s helped me learn how to take better care of myself.

Making time to train

Finding time to focus is the key challenge. Death waits for nobody, so when you need to be instantly responsive to a family in need, your homework gets buried under the crematorium forms for another week. Training is often seen as a ‘nice to have’ when you get the time, but taking the time pays dividends when you learn to be faster, better and more confident in what you’re doing. Having a pro-training mindset in a company sets the scene to achieve excellence because I’m sure we’d all agree – excellence is not a skill, it’s an attitude.

Source: SAIFinsight October 2018

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