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In search of the workplace edge

Once Sandra Dawkins made the decision to take the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) exam, it wasn’t long before she enrolled in the Certified Professional Secretary Review to help her prepare for it, as The College of The Bahamas’ Centre for Continuing Education & Extension Services (CEES) offers a nine-month program that prepares administrative professionals and clerical assistants to sit examinations for professional certifications.

Dawkins, a 32-year veteran of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) was seeking to gain an edge to help her pass the IAAP exam and ultimately enhance her workplace performance so that her employer would have a trained employee with specialized skills, a valuable resource in any thriving business.

She and three of her colleagues Dionne Bastian, Denise Braithwaite and Andrea Ferguson are among the latest successful graduates of the CPS Review and have also passed the IAAP exam.  They joined a network of more than 500 alumni in the local public and private sectors.

“My son said to me ‘Well mommy, now you know what it’s like to be in college again, I don’t want you sleeping when it’s time to do your assignments,’” recalled the senior associate at BTC.

Continuing education services continue to be in high demand as professionals from a variety of industries and sectors seek to sharpen their skills to improve their versatility, marketability and performance.

CEES has been filling that demand by providing quality programs and training opportunities including a variety of professional certifications, academic upgrading for traditional age students and personal development courses. On average 4,343 persons enroll for CEES courses annually hoping to improve their personal and professional development and upgrade their skills.

“Bahamians are taking advantage of continuing education because they realize it is an essential activity for life-long learning,” said Lorraine Bastian-Jones, assistant director of CEES.  “If we are to remain on the cutting edge of not only technology but skills, we need to continue upgrading,” she said.

Professionals with either a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution or at least four years of secretarial or clerk experience may enroll in the CPS Program which has concentrations in the areas of: management, technology and office administration.  Over time, the program has evolved to meet the needs of profesionals and now incorporates competencies in writing and research, ethics and professional responsibility and financial accounting.

“We really believe adding these courses help to give our graduates a competitive edge,” said Bastian-Jones.  “Some look at it as a form of promotion, many others look at it as professional enrichment.  We believe that secretaries and clerks can now perform their jobs with more confidence and increased skill levels.”

Dr. Christine Nwosa, assistant vice-president of outreach and director of CEES is pleased with the program’s results and the center’s national impact on professional development and lifelong learning.

“The achievement of these four BTC employees who are now Certified Professional Secretary graduates is highly commendable,” she said.  “CEES is pleased with its continued partnership with public and private partners who value continuing education and provide opportunities for its staff to advance in their career pursuits.”

The emergence of adult learners in higher education is a profound change that has vastly impacted business and industry.  As employees continue to hone their skills, productivity has increased in the workplace.  Locally, many companies require staff members to take training courses as a part of their annual performance review.

Dr. Leon Higgs, director of lifelong learning at the Ministry of Education, says continuing education is a critical component of higher learning with huge personal benefits as well.

“There is always something new to learn.  The way our minds work, once we stop learning our minds literally die.  I highly recommend that Bahamians learn new skills for their jobs.  For persons about to go into retirement they can learn skills that can be used in their personal lives.  If you were to look at the places that offer evening classes here in The Bahamas, people are continuing to learn, people are going to seminars, taking online courses and workshops.  They are seeing the value in life-long learning,” Dr. Higgs said.

As employers continue to look for high levels of skills and competencies, the value of lifelong learning continues to grow, and The College of The Bahamas is expanding its accessibility and there are also plans to offer CEES programs online in 2012.

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