Patrick Hale | November 2022
How did you get started in learning & development?
While studying at SUNY Oswego, I was required to read a chapter out of Communication Training and Development by Dr. Steve Beebe and several co-authors. I felt like this chapter gave my degree purpose, and I started learning more about what it meant to "do" training. I eventually learned that Dr. Beebe taught at Texas State University, and they had a highly respected master's program. The plan for my master's degree was very open. So I focused every class on learning a skill that would help me in the L&D world. I took a graduate-level training class, a class on assessment, instructional communication, education technology, and many others. While in school, I constantly networked with former Texas State students employed across Texas. One of those employees worked at CPS Energy as the Manager of Power Generation Training (the same role I held until I was recently promoted). He offered me a job a week before graduation. I have been at CPS Energy and in L&D since
Tell us about your journey from Instructional Designer to Manager, Power Generation training at CPS.
I started out as an Instructional Designer in Power Generation Training. My job was to build courses for power plant operators progressing through their apprenticeships. Each day I would meet with an SME, and we would work together to create curriculum. The SME would bring knowledge of the plant, and I brought knowledge of how to build courses and engage learners.
After a year of working in Power Generation Training, I moved to the Poles and Wires side of CPS, where I did the same thing. While with that group, I was asked to lead a project leading the development of a course to assist individual contributors in deciding if they wanted to cross the line and become leaders. This was my first opportunity to lead a project, and it was a success and I liked the work. From there, I lead many other Learning & Development projects across many business units. Some of them were technical, and some were soft skill-based.
One of the most significant projects I led was standing up a Heavy Equipment Training Program for all of CPS Energy. Before we created a formal program, equipment operators were taught mainly on the job. Once this program was stood up it needed someone to oversee it and that became my role; Supervisor, Heavy Equipment Training. In that role, my team and I developed and maintained the company's equipment training procedures.
After leading that team for about two years, I was offered the role of Interim Manager of Power Generation Training, and after about a year, I interviewed and accepted the position full-time. In this role, I oversaw all the apprentice training, regulatory and compliance courses, and journeymen refresher courses for Power Generation. The Power Generation Training Team is made up of a mixture of former Plant Welders, Machinist, Electricians and Instructional Designers, and Program Project Managers.
What is your favorite aspect of your role?
In the Manager, Power Generation Training role the bulk of the work is ensuring that Regulatory and Compliance Training is completed. We assign over 11,000 courses at the beginning of the year; historically, we can drive a completion percentage of around 99.9%.
While this training is vitally important to the operation of our business, it can be very monotonous. What I really enjoy being about to do is help our internal customers solve their develop needs. We oversee the apprentice programs for Power Generation. Most employees who enter the apprentice program do not have much experience in the craft they have entered. Our program will give them the knowledge and experience they need to become a Journeyman in our plants. It is amazing to see someone grow from feeling completely overwhelmed on day one to a amazingly confident journeyman in five years.
Another aspect of my job is developing our SMEs. Even before I began leading this team they were developing SMEs to take jobs outside of their craft. I have worked to improve that development. Our goal is for any SME who comes to our department on rotation to grow in their skills. Every SME who has spent significant time with us (and wanted a new opportunity) has been promoted.
What project are you the most proud of and why?
I am extremely proud of the work we did on the Heavy Equipment Training Program. Before standing this program up we did not have a consistent training program for equipment operators. At CPS Energy, we have over 1,100 skilled craft workers who operate at least one piece of equipment (forklift, backhoe, mobile platform, skid steer, etc.). As a result of this program, we have a committee that oversees the training, a set of standards for the training curriculum, and a refresher program that is tracked in our LMS. Because of the program, we can confidently say that our equipment operators are trained and refreshed.
What are the energy industry specific challenges you face as a learning & development professional, and how do you overcome or balance them?
It is hard to say exactly if the issues we face are specific to the utility business, but we definitely have challenges. Here are a few that I see:
Jenifer Wheeler | October 2022
How did you get started in learning & development?
During my graduate program, I began an internship at Mei Technology. My first project involved designing training for Southwestern Bell technicians. I loved going out into the field to observe their skills in action and ask them questions!
What are some of your main responsibilities as a Staff Instructional Specialist?
I look for ways to help our employees do their best and continually develop themselves. I usually design and deliver learning programs, but I also coordinate brown bags, offer coaching, and connect them with whatever professional development resources they might need.
What is your favorite aspect of your role?
SwRI employees have wonderfully diverse backgrounds, and I get to work with them all! The company motto is “from deep sea to deep space (and everything in between),” and that’s very true. Every day I learn something new!
What new/innovative trends or technologies in learning & development are you most interested in?
I’m interested in the metaverse’s potential to connect digital environments like virtual reality and physical environments for more effective training. I’ll be attending a special event at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation, and Education Conference this year to learn more about it.
What is one of the biggest challenges you have faced as a learning & development professional and how did you overcome it?
I design training, but sometimes training is not the best solution for the problem. Convincing people that they don’t really need a new training program can be challenging, but I try to help them focus on the outcome they hope to achieve so that we can find the right solution.
Carter | September 2022
As a Talent Program Manager, what are your main job responsibilities?
In my role, I develop, implement, and manage talent development initiatives associated with the Office of Talent and Innovation (OTI) to support innovation, growth, and elevate employees, students, and interns of UT System (UTS). Some of my responsibilities include:
What is your favorite part of your role?
There are many aspects of my role that I enjoy, but there are two that stand out as my favorite:1. Creating authentic learning experiences for UTS employees and helping them on their learning and development journey. I like that we do not have a one-size fits all approach when it comes to learning and development. We understand and celebrate that everyone learns differently and provide opportunities for people to choose their own adventure.
2. My team – I’m very fortunate to get to work with a supportive, collaborative, and talented group of individuals in the Office of Talent and Innovation (OTI).
What skills or knowledge did you gain from your Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater program that translates into the Learning & Development realm?
I love this question! I often get an inquisitive look from people when they learn I received a degree in theatre . I let them know that I love my degree because it provided me with hands on experience to gain transferable skills that could be applied to any field and has been an asset to me as I transitioned into the learning and development field. A few skills include (but there are many more):
There are so many other skills I gained from my theatre degree that help me in my role today. Here is a great article that highlights skills of theatre majors: 25 Special Advantages the Theatre Major has – (and may not even know!)
Tell us about the Cultivate program that you help implement at UT System Administration.
Cultivate is the learning and development program designed to help UT System Administration employees learn, grow, and connect. It is organized around 5 branches for individuals to cultivate:
Cultivate provides interactive opportunities under each branch to include: instructor led workshops, curated content, networking series (Coffee & Conversations and Staff Show & Tell), CliftonStrengths assessment, 1:1 coaching, and more.
We launched Cultivate in September and I’m excited to see how it grows.
What are some of your own learning & development goals?
Learner is in my top 5 CliftonStrengths and I love to learn. I do my best to be intentional about making time for my personal learning and development goals. My current goals include:1. Completing 2-3 artifacts (online course, article, books, etc.) a month on a subject. My current subject interest is the employee experience and ROI in learning and development.
2. Obtaining the ATD Certified Professional in Talent Development (CPTD) certification.
3. Participate with at least one ATD event per quarter.
Angel Salinas | August 2022