The success of the proposed training will largely depend upon the employment of simple and direct methods that shall place this knowledge in the hands and head of the person or group needing it. The application of this instruction must be immediate and practical and must not be dependent upon the working out of a complicated course or schedule.
The organization must be flexible enough to admit of bringing together a group having a common need, although they may come from different departments of the business. Since the unit of class organization is not previous school experience or similar employment, it will be seen that this class should be held only until the need is fully supplied and should then give place to another organized on the same basis.
As in all vocational teaching, the size of the class should be limited. To make this work really effective, the instructor should come in sufficiently close contact with all pupils to enable him to obtain a personal knowledge of their needs and capabilities. A further necessity for small classes and individual instruction is found in the fact that there is a constant shift of employees in the industry as well as frequent accessions from the outside.
It readily can be seen that this is not a problem of the regular school and that it cannot be met by ordinary classroom methods. Part time or continuation classes, such as have already proved feasible for other kinds of trade instruction, are the most practicable methods of doing this work.
Classes for the instruction of employees are already maintained in the majority of large stores. The extension of this plan of separate responsibility is one way of meeting the problem. But this method has certain obvious faults. The unequal opportunity which it affords to department store employees as a body is a conspicuous drawback. The value of the instruction so given, moreover, will always depend to a large extent on the comprehension of the problem by the firm maintaining the classes. The method involves much duplication of effort, which is particularly wasteful when the instruction of small groups is involved.
Another possible method would be for the several department stores to get together and cooeperate in providing instruction. There would seem to be no reason why stores should not unite for this purpose as well as for any other. The advantages of this method are economy of maintenance and administration, the ability to command expert service, and the possibility of securing and sharing the results of a great variety of such experiences as does not consist of exclusive trade secrets.
The number of people whom it would be necessary to employ exclusively for the purpose of conducting these classes would be small as compared with the results accomplished. Collectively these stores now have in their employ a body of highly paid experts in all lines of merchandise. A large amount of the most accurate technical knowledge covering the work of all departments is already available in the several stores. These are valuable resources which should be utilized by a cooeperative school of this kind.