OPM offers shorter, cheaper training for managers

Within-government training for federal executives is getting shorter and cheaper with new Office of Personnel Management offerings.

Officials at OPM's Eastern Management Development Center in Shepherdstown, W. Va., began offering a handful of two- and three-day training courses six months ago, and they're quickly becoming some of the center's most popular courses. Until then, federal managers had to commit one to six weeks of time.

Agencies have to find the budget, as well as the time off, for the training. A one-week course in Shepherdstown can cost about $4,300. Condensed classes run about half that, at about $1,900 to $2,600.

"We found that it really answered a need and a marketplace," said John O'Shea, executive director of the center. "A lot of [participants] want the opportunity to attend shorter courses that don't require them to be away from their family and [are] less expensive."

O'Shea said the shorter courses are among the most popular at the center, in part because they focus on skills managers can use immediately.

Of the new courses, the most popular is Managing a 21st Century Workforce. The class, held at the center's self-contained facility, replete with high-tech classrooms, a gym and a swimming pool, teaches skills for managing employees who work from home, at unconventional hours, part-time or who follow other alternative career patterns that OPM hopes to advance in the government.

The other condensed classes are Ethics and Public Service, Effective Writing in Government and Transition Strategies in the Public Sector.

A mass e-mail from the center said the new courses were "in response to your requests for 'new and different' training programs." O'Shea said officials collected these requests through surveys and informal discussions.

"We conduct training at these three centers in a residential environment," O'Shea said. "Faculty see the participants day and night and have meals with them and are constantly talking [to them] and mentoring them."

It was through those discussions that the center's management hatched the idea for cheaper, shorter classes and for the topics, especially on effective writing.

Other organizations outside government already offer quick, inexpensive courses. For example, FPMI Solutions offers a one-day seminar called Spanning the Gap Between Generations in the Workplace for $395. The Brookings Institution offers a two-day course titled Managing the Federal Employee Discipline and Performance Process for $1,100.

Longer courses still have their place. There is a year-long waiting list to attend the six-week Leadership for a Democratic Society course at OPM's Federal Executive Institute in Charlottesville, Va., which costs $14,500.

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