2014-04-11 / Front Page

City employees embark on ‘academy’ training

By Sean P. Milligan
Contributing Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND – Municipal staff members from the city of South Portland have begun a seven-week “Leadership Academy” at Southern Maine Community College. The seminar began March 28 and will be held every other Friday until it concludes June 6.

Faith York, an adjunct instructor at SMCC, will serve as the lecturer for the interactive program. York has taught courses such as “Working for Your Inner Boss” and “Time Mastery” in the organizational development department at the college.

The first session covered topics that included leadership management and roles in the current workplace, and will include themes of management such as employee engagement, motivating and recruitment in coming weeks.

The program will conclude with a lesson on resilience and a focus on wellness, said SMCC’s Business Relations Manager Brenda Beaulieau.

“Basically they’re investing in their employees. They wanted some training to invest in the future leaders of the city,” said Clarke Canfield, a representative from SMCC. “We are providing the service for them. We are instructing them because that’s our expertise.”

Ron Brewer, human resource director for the city of South Portland, approached SMCC about developing curriculum pertinent for municipal department heads and upper-management staff. Current department heads were asked to name up to four employees they felt could one day succeed them. Candidates were narrowed down to a final 23 that are participating in the training.

“These people may be filling the spots of a department head or an upper-level management, so it’s sort of a succession plan approach,” Brewer said.

The city is paying the college $13,524, or $84 per employee per seven-hour session. Campus dining halls have been made available to the participating municipal employees for “a reasonable price.”

According to Brewer, staff development training happens frequently within the departments at city hall. Employees have attended lectures at Kaplan University and programs in collaboration with representatives from neighboring towns.

“We do a lot of employee training, staff development training on a smaller scale,” he said. “We have half-day training, internally, where we might bring in an outside presenter.”

He cited a recent occasion when an employee from L.L. Bean was brought in to talk about customer service with the city’s frontline employees.

A future educational alliance between the college and the city is likely. Both sides have discussed possible topics and programs that could benefit other municipal employees.

“I think having SMCC in our community is a valuable asset,” said South Portland City Manager Jim Gailey, who contributed to the leadership program’s curriculum. “They are an asset that could provide some valuable educational experiences that we see fit for our employees.”

Brewer added that he will meet with staff at SMCC later this spring about the possibility of another training in the fall, but making that come to fruition “is going to depend on budgets.” Possible seminar topics could be computer literacy and communication training.

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