I can’t think of a single profession that doesn’t benefit from professional development. I want my doctor to learn the latest research on prescription medication or a new diagnostic tool. Teachers need to be on top of new curriculum, and IT professionals should be able to troubleshoot new software and hardware systems. An auto mechanic should know how to fix the latest engineering under the hood of my car.
Investing in professional development is what leading organizations in both the public and private sector do if they want to recruit, retain and get the highest level of performance out of their employees.
Recently, the City of Guelph Information Technology Annual Report red-flagged PD as an area that we are sorely lacking. During past budget cuts, PD was cut or eliminated in many departments, and we are now seeing a ripple effect. Staff are expected to be up to date on best practices, latest research, legislative change and to establish networks with their colleagues to brainstorm, innovate and problem-solve. Slowly, our PD budgets are being restored, thank goodness, and everyone in the city will benefit from the learning gained through keeping the best and brightest staff in Guelph.
But what about PD for members of Council? Since they are expected to guide us forward — on city-building, wellness, fiscal responsibility and economic development among many other things — shouldn’t councillors also be expected to know best practices, understand new regulations, share innovative ideas with colleagues, and develop their leadership and communication skills? I think so.
Guelph city councillors receive a $3,250 limit to engage in professional development. In the annual remuneration for Mayor and Council, it shows up as “Sundries”. I use this line for professional development and choose wisely each year how best to enhance my skills and knowledge to serve the best interests of the citizens I represent.
Over the past years, I have used this allowance to attend workshops at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO). I have also attended training, conferences and workshops offered by the Centre for Civic Governance, Canadian Urban Institute and Project for Public Spaces. I have learned about new community engagement models, using social media, watershed protection legislation, Greenbelt economic development, and much much more.
In 2014, I will be attending the Livable Cities Conference in Portland, OR, which is considered one of the North America’s model cities for active transportation, parkland restoration, family-friendly neighbourhoods, cultural districts, and lowering per capita energy use. The program can be found here: Livable Cities Conference Program. I use the knowledge gained from PD to make better, more informed decisions on your behalf. I am also better able to critically read and ask for a deeper level of detail in reports and recommendations that come to Council for approval.