A group of Bachelor of Commerce students provide customized training for staff from the Alberta Rural Development Network.

HR students prepare for real-world careers by designing real-world training

April 30, 2019 | Business
Rather than traditional course assignments aimed at solving fictional problems for imaginary organizations, students in Dr. Dianna Dempsey’s Winter 2019 HRMT 318: Learning and Development course were matched with community organizations like Boyle Street Community Services and Goodwill Industries of Alberta to create training solutions for real-life problems.

The Bachelor of Commerce Students worked in teams to design and develop workshops on everything from active listening and team building to supervisory skills in ways that aligned with each organization’s strategic priorities.

The experiential learning project had students meet their partners for the first time back in January, and then work with them for the next two months as they used the theory and concepts that they were learning in class to shape customized training solutions for each group.

Zenna Kuzio, Olga Kolesnikova, Kelsey Treichel and Holly Peerless were paired with the Alberta Rural Development Network (ARDN) to build a workshop focused on delegation for managers. Throughout the semester, they worked through needs analysis, designing training objectives and content, all leading up to an in-person training presentation with ARDN staff in late March.

“The presentation was definitely the highlight – we do presentations for our peers all the time, but presenting to an outside organization and creating something that was useful in real life gave us a new perspective, and was really fulfilling and worthwhile,” says Kelsey.

They weren’t the only ones who thought so.

“ARDN is in a period of growth – we’ve gone from a very small, very flat organization with six to eight employees and are now approaching 20 employees,” explains Scott Travis, program manager with the organization that works to address issues unique to rural Canada. “I thought the students did a great job putting together a training session that gave us some ideas on how to effectively delegate and make sure everyone has the resources they need to get the work done.”

Travis adds that ARDN has a history of engaging post-secondary students, and was happy to be part of a project that allowed the MacEwan students to grow and develop their skills.

“These experiences of working together as a group to create training for a real organization are ones we can always refer back to,” says Holly.

It’s exactly the result Dianna was hoping for when she decided to integrate experiential learning into the course.

“As HR professionals of the future, it is imperative that the students learn to assess the needs of their partner organizations and translate those needs into a meaningful learning experience for training participants,” says Dianna. “I’m incredibly proud of my students for the hard work and care that they put into designing and delivering their projects, and grateful that they were willing to move outside their comfort zones to try this approach to learning. It was an amazing experience for me as their instructor, and one that I hope will be valuable to the students as they embark on their own careers.”

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