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Best Workplaces 2011: Best Workplace for Training and Development

May 1, 2011

Best Workplace for Training and Development

Epcor Utilities Inc.

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Photos by Ryan Girard

It’s always back-to-school day at Epcor, where employees can return to the classroom and take a variety of courses through the Epcor School of Business. The Edmonton-based utilities company, which has been operating the school for the past three years, added seven new courses to its lineup for 2011. In addition to offering four orientation courses, 14 courses covering professional and business subjects, and two leadership development programs, the school also provides an important opportunity for Epcor employees to meet and talk internally within the classroom’s walls.

Facility: Programs are delivered through an on-site learning facility. The Learning Centre, says Maxine Clarke, senior manager of talent development, has the typical stuff you would see in a post-secondary classroom, including a large classroom with audiovisual support, as well as breakout rooms and a computer lab.

Class Description: Classes vary in length, with an online ethics training program running an hour long, while others, such as the comprehensive leadership development program, run for two weeks. Most programs take one to two days and develop key skills in areas like verbal and written communication, conflict management and problem solving. The programs deliver the curriculum in a combination of ways, including lectures, class discussions, group work, independent work and online learning.

Cost: All School of Business programs are available at no cost to employees. “Our approach is every Epcor employee has access to development of some kind, in order to help them perform in terms of both their professional role and moving into the future,” says Clarke.

Teachers: Internal and external facilitators teach the classes: “As long as we have the expertise in-house, we’ll utilize it,” says Clarke.

Journals: Training and development take place not only during class time, but also before and after. Employees discuss their expected goals with their managers prior to the course, then during the course employees are encouraged to keep a journal
to note key learning that they can bring back to their jobs. After the course, a development plan is put into action with regular feedback from the employees’ managers.

Happy Students: The school helps create more engaged employees who have stronger skill sets – outcomes that benefit both employees and the business. “We’ll see better business results in terms of operational efficiencies, engagement and retention,” says Clarke.

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