by Kyle S. Richardson
Have you ever thought about getting higher education, but are overwhelmingly busy with the daily grind? Or maybe you just don’t have the money to get an advanced degree to help you stand out from the competition?
As public servants we make ourselves busy by attacking each day at a time, working to assure our programs contribute to the success and well-being of the American public. And if we’re not all that busy, perhaps even for a season, these days modern technology assures we are constantly connected and fill our time with social media updates and text messaging with friends and colleagues.
In a time of overabundance of info, we should seek to invest in ourselves regularly to continue to grow in our respective career fields, or even branch out to explore other opportunities. I’ve done some research, but frankly a lot of the resources I’m about to share below came about through happenstance — either as a member of various listservs, through colleagues, LinkedIn/Twitter, or just coming across it through my daily work as a member of the emergency management community at the First Responder Network Authority.
There are many resources available to government employees, many free, some which you could pursue funds through your training department as part of your Individual Development Plan (IDP). Some requiring less than an hour time commitment, others a week or longer. I encourage you take advantage of some of these resources for a big payoff.
I know for myself, I hadn’t really started taking advantage of them until recently — and much of that was because I didn’t know about them. As I’ve talked with my colleagues across all levels of government, I’m hearing the same from them.
Here is a brief list of a few training and development opportunities to consider:
Believe it or not, your agency has valuable training opportunities that you are not taking advantage of. Talk with your training department to explore the plethora of opportunities available to you, right at your own agency! I found a goldmine of opportunities while accessing FirstNet’s agency training portal.
Emergency Management Institute
Located in Emmittsburg, MD, EMI’s mission is to support the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and FEMA’s goals by improving the competencies of the U.S. officials in Emergency Management at all levels of government to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the potential effects of all types of disasters and emergencies on the American people.
You can browse through a plethora of Independent Study courses in many areas related to emergency management, and on-campus programs: https://training.fema.gov/apply/
Treasury Executive Institute
The Treasury Executive Institute (TEI) provides continuous learning and growth opportunities that meet the needs of government executives, executive development candidates, and senior managers (SES, GS/14-15, and equivalents). TEI exposes participants to best practices in leadership models, and executive competencies. TEI brings executives to the marketplace of ideas by exposing them to best practices in leadership models, new technologies, and executive competencies. TEI programs have provided both education and knowledge sharing opportunities among executives throughout the Treasury Department since its creation in 1983.
TEI has a coaching program which I highly recommend. You can connect with highly experienced and credible government leaders who will provide hands on one on one catered coaching to facilitate leaders as they develop their peer-to-peer coaching skills once a month for the next year.
Check with your training department at your agency to see if your agency participates in TEI. Then visit https://tei.treasury.gov and login with your OMB Max credentials.
GSA’s DigitalGov University
As the events platform for DigitalGov.gov, DGU provides programming to build and accelerate digital capacity by providing webinars and in-person events highlighting innovations, case studies, tools and resources. Their diverse events target a federal audience, and peer-to-peer sharing that facilitates cross-agency collaboration. I just attended one recently, “An Inside Look at How the FBI Develops Engaging Video”, a great conversation between Bryce Spivey, Co-Chair & Founder of Video Production Pros community and Steve Lewis, from the office of public affairs at the FBI.
For federal government employees, visit https://openopps.usajobs.gov and browse opportunities to gain experience with hands-on training, share your expertise and work with others across the government.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s (AHRQ)
I haven’t had any direct experience with their programs, but I’ve heard good things about them from colleagues. They offer programs such as the Federal Leadership and Professional Development Seminar. For more, visit: https://www.ahrq.gov/cpi/about/index.html
More opportunities, including an entire list of educational programs is posted on the OMB Max Portal
Their online training programs allows you to learn at your own pace. Start with the first e-module and work your way through the series by visiting https://www.usaid.gov/work-usaid/get-grant-or-contract/trainings-how-work-usaid.
Universities offering low-cost government certifications or degree programs
Many two- and four-year colleges and trade schools offer graduates job training either for free or at a low cost; you may even be able to take these courses online. If you’re a college grad, check with your alma mater’s alumni relations or career services department to see what training opportunities are available to you.
Ball State University
Offers an accredited online Masters in Public Relations degree as well as communications certificate programs, http://cms.bsu.edu/academics/collegesanddepartments/journalism/academic-programs/masters/public-relations. While some folks in government think of public relations as simply publicity, public relations is actually strategy communications.
Purdue University’s Brian Lamb School of Communication
They offer online certificate and master degree programs in communication. While not being exclusively a program for federal communicators, it did attract a lot of government communicators in the federal, state and local government.
Federal Academic Alliance
Academic opportunities are offered at a discounted rate for federal employees through the Federal Academic Alliance. Some of my colleagues have obtained secondary degrees, online, and at a significantly reduced rate.
NGO’s and Associations
The NCPC is the premier cybersecurity consortium in the nation. As early as 2004, in partnership with DHS/FEMA, the individual members of the NCPC have developed and delivered DHS/FEMA certified online and face-to-face training courses to an array of states, counties, local jurisdictions, and critical infrastructure components nationwide addressing cybersecurity and cyber terrorism concerns. The mission of the NCPC is to provide research-based, cybersecurity-related training, exercises, and technical assistance to local jurisdictions, counties, states, and the private sector.
Visit their site to take free training courses in this highly needed skill: http://nationalcpc.org/courses.html
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, One-Stop Career Centers provide job training for people at different stages in their career, including internships, apprenticeships, part-time jobs, and full-time jobs.
In conjunction with the U.S. Small Business Administration, SCORE provides entrepreneurs and small business owners—or those who want to own a business—with free career-education and business counseling. With more than 300 chapters throughout the U.S., SCORE pairs participants with free mentors in their field, across 62 industries. (Mentoring is offered in person, via email, or by video.) The organization also offers free or low-cost local business workshops and webinars.
The National Association of Government Communicators (NAGC) promotes excellence in government communications through the professional development opportunities it offers its members. By working together to share news, information, ideas, strategies, and tactics, they strive to grow this important field and deliver unprecedented value to the American public. They offer training which is either free to members or for a fee which you could include in your IDP, through the NAGC Communications School, online learning, and even open up the door to a streamlined process for receiving your accreditation in public relations (APR). I also highly recommend you submit your quality work to their annual awards competition – it’s great to be recognized!
Linkedin Learning allows users to take self-paced online courses – free with a premium profile, which veterans qualify for, for free. Visit: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/
As I said, these are just a few opportunities I’ve come across. Please share programs which you’ve come across or experienced in the comments below!