administrative support personnel gathered Jan. 27 for
the first module in the Division of Lifelong Learning’s
new certificate program in workplace communications.
The staffs’ involvement is part of a training
pilot project sponsored by Memorial’s Department
of Human Resources (HR) in response to a training needs
assessment conducted last year by HR’s organizational
development office. Enthusiasm for the program has been
very high and evaluations for the first module, taught
by Lifelong Learning’s Dan Dillon, have been very
positive, according to HR’s Robert Barker.
By Patrick Tyler
Special to the Gazette
A training needs assessment conducted last year by
Human Resources (HR) has resulted in the development and offering
of a certificate in workplace communications for administrative
The five-module certificate was developed by the Division
of Lifelong Learning in collaboration with Robert Barker,
manager, and Nola Perry, intermediate secretary, of the organizational
development office of Memorial's HR department.
According to Mr. Barker, the components of the certificate
– customer service, conflict resolution, change management,
interpersonal communications and stress management –
were five of the higher need areas identified by the needs
assessment. Mr. Barker noted there are some great needs for
training within the university community; “this (the
certificate) is one of them.
“We figured we’d pilot it, hopefully get some
positive feedback – which we have so far – and
from there, move that forward and see if we can obtain some
additional funding to offer it more broadly within that group
of jobs,” said Mr. Barker.
He noted that more than 60 people expressed an interest in
the program. The 20 participants selected to be the program's
first cohort, attended their first module – Customer
Service Essentials – at the end of January. They'll
attend the other five, one- and two-day modules over the next
five weeks, finishing up in April.
“The first session has gone over very well,” Barker
noted. “The feedback has been very, very positive.”
Mr. Barker hopes to accommodate a second cohort in the fall
but that will depend on an evaluation of the first offering
and the availability of funding.
“I’ve had more calls on (the program),”
said Ms. Perry, who liaised with Lifelong Learning in the
development of the certificate. “The response has been
overwhelming and it’s been from a good cross section
of the university which confirms for me that there's a need.
And the evaluations (from the first module) were wonderful.
It’s also very relevant topic for that audience,”
Ms. Perry’s views are echoed by one of the participants,
Doreen Browne, senior secretary to the dean of business. “Actually,
it was fun,” Ms. Browne said, although she admitted
to some nervousness about describing a training course as
“fun”; for fear it might trivialize the experience.
“But yes, it was fun,” she reaffirmed.
“I think in addition to Dan (Dillon, the facilitator)
who is very good, and easy going, and presents very well,
the participants gave a lot of feedback and I think that helped
everybody. It’s the interaction between the participants
that certainly adds to this type of event. You can’t
just sit down and listen to somebody or look at a slide show.
It was a good group.”
For the Division of Lifelong Learning it's an excellent opportunity
to demonstrate its program development expertise. It's also
an opportunity to develop a client-specific program that can
be offered publicly, which is what the division is doing this
“The certificate content is readily applicable to businesses
and government and any other organization where administrative
personnel play a critical role,” said Doreen Whalen,
director of Lifelong Learning. “Administrative professionals
make up the largest segment of the office workforce and play
an integral role in the day-to-day operation of organizations,”
“This program is an acknowledgement of the importance
of having well trained administrative staff, and we think
it will be well received in the community.”