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MENTOR - FLEXIBLE ROUTE TO GETTING AHEAD

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Qualifications are a sure-fire way of boosting your career, but how do you find study time? Alia Waheed reports on ...
Qualifications are a sure-fire way of boosting your career, but how do you find study time? Alia Waheed reports on e-learning

T raining works wonders for your confidence, teaches you new skills and looks great on your CV. The tricky bit is packing it in to an already busy schedule and that is where computer-based training comes in.

Jo Colclough, ICT training manager for Staffordshire CC, says: 'We have gone heavily down the road of e-learning. It opens opportunities for staff.

'We are a large county and it is hard for people on the outer reaches to travel. E-learning enables them to access knowledge that would be outside their catchment area. People who are part time and can't spend a whole day on training can fit it around their commitments.'

She says some parts of their training programme are generic, while others have been specially built. It is all part of developing an e-learning culture.

'In the past, once the classroom teaching ended, there was no longer the tutor support. With e-learning, once you have the connection you have an online reference.'

The Society of IT Management, the association representing managers with responsibility for ICT strategy, produced a report on e-learning entitled Fit to drive.

Report author Chris Head says staff need the support of the council to make the most of e-learning.

'Where learning is high on the agenda, e-learning forms part of the competency framework and the appraisal process. People can do it where and when they want, saving them from going out of the office, and unlike conventional teaching, students can butterfly around the information and pick and choose what they want to learn'

However, e-learning is not just useful for building-up qualifications, but also for acquiring information to support your work and develop transferable skills. It also enables staff to keep up with changes in council structure and new legislation.

Tony Zedle, IT consultant for Surrey CC, says: 'There is a large amount of e-learning available which is of high importance for people's jobs. For example, there are rules on when organisations can and can't share information and you can check the guidance through e-learning. You can also access it as and when you need it instead of having to wait for a course to start.'

Brent LBC introduced an e-learning programme which includes interactive courses on subjects such as the Children Act, health and safety legislation and customer services. Organisational development projects

officer Dalia Davis, who set up the scheme, says:

'E-learning reaches a large number of people in a wide range of locations. It is cost-effective, flexible and highly responsive to the needs of both employers and learners.'

Princess Francis, learning and development officer at Brent, reaped the benefits of e-learning when she did the council's introduction to local government course as soon as she joined last year.

'I did the course in a morning during work time. It was great as, having never worked in local government, I could learn straightaway about the council. The corporate induction took place about a month later so it was very useful to get information there and then.

'It also means you can learn at your own pace. You do an assessment and you can go back and refresh the things you're not so sure about.'

As a learning and development officer Ms Francis says e-learning can easily be tailored to a council's specific needs.

'We have purchased an authoring tool so we can develop our own programmes,' she says.

E-learning can also be used as a tool to pursue formal qualifications. Harrow LBC has set up

its own corporate university to encourage employees to develop skills through credit based learning. These enable workers to study for qualifications relevant to their job which are recognised by external industry bodies. Anita

Luthra-Suri, group manager for lifelong learning at Harrow Teachers' Centre, which runs the university, says: 'So much has changed and people need to develop skills to improve the way they do their jobs.

'With so many changes taking place, you don't know if the job you are doing today is the same as the job you will do next week so you need transferable skills.'

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