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February 5, 2004


Communicating in the workplace

Division of Lifelong Learning’s new certificate program in workplace communications.
Twenty 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 professionals.

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,” she added.

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 semester.

“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,” she noted.

“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.”


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Next issue: February 19, 2003

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