Staff development opportunities at Western are getting a new look – both online and in the classroom.
A visit to the new Staff Development at Western website shows a wider variety of opportunities, from workshops and courses, to online and self-directed methods. The shift looks to modernize and diversify training opportunities for university community members across campus, Human Resources officials explained.
“With more individual and team-learning opportunities, it is safe to say there is a fit for everyone,” explained Nancy Stewart, Senior Facilitator with Learning and Development Services.
Most notably to some, gone is the annual Staff Conference, held during Spring Reading Week in February. For 17 years, the event served as the university’s “flagship learning opportunity.”
But numerous recent challenges – from weather and speaker schedules, to staff holidays and, yes, floods – had organizers looking at other potential learning opportunities. It is also a new world, Stewart said. In 2002, there were no iPhones, little social media and event schedules were printed.
“There are few things we’ve been doing the same way for 17 years,” she said. “It’s a busy time of year when students are gone. There was no real attachment to the date, but people still liked the idea of learning together with their colleagues, and their own employee groups.”
In June, Human Resources met with employee group leaders to discuss staff learning opportunities.
The Professional Network Forum will continue, but it will feature more opportunities to learn with specific work groups. That forum offers learning opportunities for Professional Management Association (PMA)-eligible employees, special constables, operating engineers, archivists and librarians and SAGE (Select Administrative Group Employees).
Sessions specifically for CUPE 2361 and CUPE 2692 members, as well as members of the University of Western Ontario Staff Association (UWOSA) and those who work directly with students, for example, are also now available.
“We have colleagues who work daily with students and are aware of the common issues, questions and concerns in their departments, and these are likely mirrored across our campus,,” said Chris Thompson, Human Resources Talent and Learning Consultant. By way of example, he cited a Student Support Network event on Nov. 7.
“There needed to be an opportunity to bring these people together to learn, network and share best practices. This will be their first time together. We’re looking at 500 invitees for staff whose primary accountability is the support and guidance of students.”
Staff enjoy learning together, Stewart said, but what was lacking was the ability to access the wide array of learning opportunities in a one-stop-shopping manner.
“You had to go to so many places to find things. It was hard for them to actually find what’s available,” she said, adding the new staff development website is much more user friendly.
“This has allowed us to really be focused with the learning opportunities. Now, if you want to learn together with your colleagues, here you go. If you want to learn together in a targeted way, here you go. Here’s the plan; we hope you can find yourself in it.”
Thompson added the launch of the new website brings all of the opportunities front and centre for staff members to choose their adventure, so to speak.
“It’s not just the events. What are the other ways in which they can supplement their learning? Through online courses, degree-credit courses at Western, LinkedIn learning?” he said. “It’s providing people the opportunity to see the whole picture and be able to make choices as to what’s good for their development that year. There is a lot of excitement about what is possible.”
Also new on the horizon is an All-Staff PD Day scheduled for June, when all employee groups to come together. “It’s going to be educational, giving staff the chance to come away with something tangible they can apply to their work, but also a little fun,” Thompson said.