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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

CONTINUING EDUCATION

Professional development is key to career advancement

By Linda White
Special to The Toronto Sun


You've gotten your foot in the door and are eager to begin your journey up the corporate ladder. But in today's work world, building the skills needed to advance your career may find you back in the classroom.

"Professional development has become a very important piece of everyone's career plan in the 21st century," says Sharon Collins, director of continuing studies at Western (www.uwo.ca/cstudies) in London.

"The changing world of work requires that you are multi-functional and a multi-tasker," she says. "The notion of building on skills and enhancing skills is crucial in today's workforce ... It's a building of self-confidence and your ability to perform well in the workforce."

There's been a significant increase in the number of students seeking professional development over the past five years, with many employers providing employees with a training allowance, Collins reports.

Some students take just one course, while others seek a professional certificate, such as introduction to project management, risk management, collaborative conflict resolution and employee communications.

"A certificate gives people a path to follow. It's what many employers say they want," Collins says.

"The big areas are project management and conflict resolution. These are skills that just about everybody needs today," she says. "Conflict, for example, is part of everyday life. Students look at the basics of conflict resolution and may be interested in moving on to mediation and negotiation."

A certificate can be a building block to industry certification. Graduates of Western's project management program, for instance, may seek project management professional (PMP) designation through the Project Management Institute.

Professional development can give you the confidence to succeed and fulfill your professional or entrepreneurial dreams. Sheridan College (www.sheridaninstitute.ca/cect) offers personal and professional development workshops for women on such topics as building confidence, leading and motivating others and networking for success.

Its Ontario management development program certificate is designed to enhance a student's entrepreneurial and management skills. It's aimed at those already working in or working toward management or supervisory positions and small business owners.

As professional development becomes increasingly important, it's also increasingly accessible, with courses offered during the workday, evening and weekends, many with online components.

Professional development is about building for the future, believes Michele Trempe, sales manager at CDI College (www.cdicollege.com).

"We're seeing a swing in the pendulum back to certification," Trempe says. "People have to stay ahead of the 8-ball to ensure they're not in a crisis situation. People want to stay ahead of the game."

CDI technology programs like network & Internet security analyst and business programs such as supervisory management and payroll management are based on industry certification requirements.

CDI also offers corporate education, including leadership, customer relations and project management courses -- many offered over several days. "Everyone needs those soft skills," Trempe says.

"We're seeing a trend to people coming back to training," she says. "Employers are realizing they can't leave this on the table indefinitely. It gives you the skills to not only do your job well but to move ahead."

(Linda White (linda.white@rogers.com) is a freelance writer based in Brooklin, Ont.)



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