By Lauretta MacCarron, Pacific Region
In the Fall of 2013, an Expression of Interest went out to CSC employees interested in becoming facilitators with the Joint Learning Program (JLP). Since I had never heard of the JLP prior to this, I did some research and was very intrigued about the fact that this program offers free workshops to all federal government agencies with a focus on fostering better labour relations in the workplace. With the support of my manager, I submitted my name and I am so glad I did! What a phenomenal experience this has been for me.
This particular expression was looking for CSC staff to be trained to facilitate the Creating a Harassment Free Workplace workshop to our colleagues under a Memorandum of Understanding with the JLP. The orientation was five days of the most fun, interactive training I have been involved in and I was instantly hooked.
With the support of my managers, I decided I would also like to work with the broader program, which meant I could potentially facilitate to any government department under Treasury Board direction in my region (BC/Yukon). What an amazing opportunity and experience!
I immediately recognized, however, that CSC was seriously underutilizing this fun, valuable (and free) program. A possible reason for this is that CSC already offers training related to a couple of the topics addressed by the JLP workshops. That said, there is something unique about the delivery of JLP workshops and how the objectives are met, which is part of what drew me in.
All CSC staff must participate in the Creating a Harassment Free Workshop, as it is included as one of our mandatory training courses. That said, it is only one of seven workshops offered by the JLP. The remaining workshops are:
Duty to Accommodate
Labour Management Consultation
Understanding the Collective Agreement
Mental Health in the Workplace
The Mental Health in the Workplace workshop is the newest JLP offering. It rolled out in the summer of 2014 and since then, has proven to be in extremely high demand across all regions of the country. And with very good reason!
Mental health and wellness has become a hot topic everywhere as of late and with recent workforce adjustments, budget cuts, and a general sense of uncertainty, it is extremely timely. This particular workshop is the one I am most passionate about. Health Canada predicts that 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental health challenge this year and 1 in 3 Canadians will be affected by a mental health challenge in their lifetime, making this a very relatable topic.
All of the JLP workshops are designed with the assumption that the knowledge and experience is already in the room...and it always is! Our workshops utilize experiential models and methods to foster dialogue among our participants (as a means to achieving the objectives of our workshops and the mandate of the Program).
This type of learning environment is conducive to creating a dynamic, interactive learning environment, which makes the workshops a lot of fun and very informative. As a facilitator, I have had the pleasure of being able to stand back and listen to some incredibly clever and informed interactions. By using a dialogue-based approach to learning, participants in JLP workshops come to better understand each other's perspectives on topics that are of interest to both the union and the employer.
Every JLP workshop organizer is provided with a flexible budget in order to assist them in meeting their needs (e.g. rented meeting room, refreshments, lunch). This gives them the ability to create a valuable learning experience that simultaneously fosters professional networking and camaraderie in a casual learning environment.
Any CSC employee can initiate the process of organizing a workshop by visiting the JLP website and clicking on the ‘Organize a Workshop’ link. Ideally, a workshop would consist of 15-20 participants with a mix of staff and people who have previously or currently held a position in the union, as well as managers of any level. This mix is crucial to triggering discussions that can have a profound and positive impact on the workplace, as all perspectives will be presented. This is what the ‘Joint’ in Joint Learning Program is all about!
Being a JLP facilitator has given me many opportunities to get a ‘change of scenery’ from my regular day to day work. To date, I have facilitated with Service Canada, Transport Canada, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Oceans and Fisheries, as well as my own colleagues. I have also been privileged to co-facilitate with talented people from many other government agencies. Having diversity in facilitators is one more way that workshop participants are exposed to yet another interesting perspective.
In the two years I’ve been with the JLP, I have been lucky enough to travel quite a bit within BC, but I’d love to facilitate in Whitehorse...maybe next summer when it’s daylight all the time!