Several years after breaking ground, Fiscal Year 2022 brought the long awaited opening of its state-of-the-art training centers. The return to in-person training was the result of careful and strategic planning. A phased-in approach was initiated to help learners re-acclimate to being in a classroom after significant time in virtual sessions due to the pandemic. The Workforce Institute sent a survey to learners to determine their feelings and concerns about returning to in-person classroom learning. The short survey asked for feedback and suggestions to help ease the transition. Learners were reintegrated into the training rooms with reduced class sizes, provided disposable masks, sanitizer, and additional cleaning products.
“Our focus on the return to classroom was providing a safe, welcoming environment for our learners and training teams,” explains Mark Jamison, Deputy Director, Operations/Deputy Chief of Staff.
In November 2021, the Motivational Interviewing: Investigative Strategies (MII) course safely ran in-person trainings for NYPD and Division of Child Protection (DCP) learners in the newly renovated Harlem training center.
In May 2022, the Supervision and Coaching team, with the support of the Supporting Knowledge into Practice (SKIP) team, returned to offering in-person Coaching Collaboratives and Skill Refreshers once per month, the first of which were held at our Harlem training site.
The two-day pilot of the Empower, Affirm: Policy, Best Practices and Guidance for Serving LGBTQAI+ Children and Youth Involved in the Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice System course also rolled out that May. The course required James Satterwhite Academy’s (JSA’s) Youth Development Specialists (many newly hired) to participate in simulation activities with OTWD’s actors.
Trainer Althea Cochran detailed the ways JSA circumvented some of the challenges that arose around the in-person training model. “Even though the work is very important, we prioritized staff and learners; we told them they had to take care of themselves first. We really saw a sense of humanity arise; people were gentler and we saw a greater sense of comradery.”
Seating capacity was intentionally kept low to accommodate pandemic social distancing, only offering five to seven seats per class. The MII course was initially met with mixed reviews: learners reported both some initial trepidation, as well as high engagement. Jasmin Singleton of the Workforce Institute’s Learning Operations team offered qualitative data and learner reviews of the classes. She states, “While attendance started off spotty, learners are now finding that they have more opportunities in the classroom to practice in-person skills that are proving to be invaluable.”
Carolyn Rohe, Senior Director of Supervision and Coaching, says that one takeaway for her team was a positive attitude: “Although the class sizes were smaller, the enthusiasm of the learners and facilitators was great.”
Facilitators from Coaching Collaborative reported that learner engagement and participation throughout the courses were strong and learners reported feeling a high sense of community and increased confidence in using the coaching skills.
“We were able to effectively deliver material in this professional learner-centric environment that ACS created. The training spaces are nice and there’s value in going back. There’s also value in the virtual environment; right now we’re finding that balance,” explains Daniel Siford, Senior Facilitator with Learning Operations.
Going forward into FY23, the state-of-the-art training centers will continue to welcome more learners into the classrooms, providing that right balance of in-person and virtual learning opportunities.