Investing In What’s Important

At a recent camp conference, a between-session conversation among several directors focused on organizational budget cuts and the lack of travel dollars for adequate continuing education.

Be intentional about camp staff training. Photo courtesy of Cheley Colorado Camps in Estes Park, Colo.

This is a common scenario for organizations big and small. Tighter budgets can correlate to diminished continuing education and training plans for frontline staff, managers, and directors.

Yet savvy camp professionals know that maintaining a strong knowledge base and skill set, as well as documenting the acquisition of new knowledge and skills, is important for both productivity and maintaining relevance and competitiveness in the marketplace.

Continuing education and professional development are also critical for program quality, since investments in training most often result in enhanced staff competencies, improved program quality, and greater outcomes for program participants.

A New Era Of Professional Development

When applied to seasonal camp staff, the need for intentional training and professional development is particularly important.

Camp employees, as well as staff working in other non-formal, out-of-school-time (OST) settings, have unique characteristics when compared to other educators.

These frontline individuals have fluid roles and responsibilities plus diverse academic and experiential backgrounds, but often lack the guidance provided by a standardized set of competencies (Peter & Smith, 2012).

In the past, with limited formal criteria or certifications, no standardized ongoing professional development requirements, and minimal formal assessment, the professional identity common in some fields has been unavailable for camp staff. But times have changed.

Professional Development Indicators:

• Standards that require documentation of professional development (American Camp Association, 2012a)

• Core competency framework to guide the content of professional development and training (American Camp Association, 2012b)

• Creation of certification programs to serve different professional/staff levels (American Camp Association, 2012c)

• Options for personal continuing education as well as staff training through systems such as ACA’s Professional Development Center and program providers.

Professional development is a year-long, ongoing process. © Can Stock Photo Inc. / glossygirl21

These are indicators that we have entered a new period with many exciting opportunities for professional growth and development.

Key Dimensions of Professional Development Planning

Variety: Professional development can take many forms, including face-to-face trainings, such as national and local conferences and workshops; synchronous online opportunities, like live webinars in which the instructor and learners are present in an online meeting room; and asynchronous online opportunities, such as recorded webinars, videos, or self-directed online courses in which learners access a pre-recorded educational program.

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