What Was, What Will Be: The PDC in 2016 and 2017
2016 defied our expectations. We thought that with the improved employment picture the market for our professional development workshops would flatten. That didn’t happen. Instead, the need for professional development stayed fairly constant. While our principal market, unemployed professionals, declined in numbers, we now began to attract working professionals and small-business employees, often in sizable numbers, drawn by our modest workshop fees and relevant course material.
This was heartening news for us but it didn’t take much computational power to suggest why PDC’s courses remained attractive. Principal among the “whys” are the constantly changing technologies in today’s marketplace. Each day workplace technologies and cultures evolve, requiring an updating of skills and attitudes. There is a “push-pull” effect in today’s workplace. Staff members are forced to grow their skills to remain employed, and at the same time most people are motivated by a desire to learn and grow their mastery in their professional field. Finally, PDC’s price is right. We provide the lowest cost training in New England thanks to the efforts of our volunteers and the industry experts who often work for us at a discounted rate.
Nancy, a workshop participant, perhaps summarized best why our workshops succeed. “I got a lot out of the Project Management and Grant Writing workshops,” she said. “I hope you’re planning new workshops for 2017?” To which our answer was “Yes.”
In 2016, 45 courses were offered, with most actually running. Our most popular courses continued to draw. Among them were: Project Management Essentials, Introduction to Grant Writing, Agile/Scrum Fundamentals, Introduction to Salesforce, Creating a Business Plan and Fundraising Essentials. We also test marketed several new courses: The DiSC Assessment, HR Basics for Small Businesses, Public Relations for Non-Profits, Myers-Briggs Assessment, Linked-In for Professional Development, The Art of Proactive Management and Speak With Confidence. These courses tapped into new professional areas. Some drew a few, several drew many and some drew not at all. But that’s how you learn. Readers, please send along your suggestions for courses you need for your professional growth.
In 2016, the PDC also provided as a public service very low cost professional Linked-In head shots through the efforts of photographer Bimal Nepal (www.BimalNepal.com). Photos were taken at WIND South and North and at a Cambridge networking group.
The PDC Post, our newly named Internet newsletter, finally got off the ground through the good graces of Stephen Morgan, former writer and copy editor for The Boston Globe and now the editor of the Post. Steve tapped into his network of professional reporters, many “involuntarily retired,” to put together a core of experienced (and some amateur) journalists to produce each issue. Steve is always interested in recruiting new volunteers. Contact him if you’re interested: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another highlight of 2016 was the offer of new office space for the Professional Development Collaborative in the Norwood Gardens site operated by Chestnut Hill Realty. They were generous in making the offer, and we especially thank Carolyn Panos, the community activities manager, for making this possible. After much hand-wringing, we decided to stay in our current premises for the time being, but we had a great time prospecting new sites.
What didn’t go so well this past year was the dropoff in volunteers to our group, the result of the uptick in hiring throughout 2017. Our smaller volunteer base reduced PDC’s outreach to new people who would benefit from our courses. Our volunteers also help plan, organize and market our training. The advantages of volunteering are many. You’ll grow your network and your professional skills and you can attend our workshops at half price. That said, it’s important to note that while our volunteers were fewer this year, those who signed on were absolutely fabulous – enthusiastic, hard-working, intelligent and motivated. Please read the “Special Thanks” section at the end of this article.
Six Challenges Facing the PDC in 2017
1. We need to find new ways to grow our revenue. One option in the planning stage is to collaborate with PDC instructors who run consulting businesses. The PDC could help them market their businesses to a broader audience, receiving a referral fee in return. We could also allow appropriate sponsors on our website to underwrite its cost. The goal of these efforts would be to generate income to keep our workshop fees at an affordable level.
2. PDC needs to begin writing grants to secure funds for a mobile classroom and other special projects bringing our training to those most in need. Grant writers, we need you!
3. Increase our base of volunteers to help us market our training, manage our office, set up and register people at our workshops and write for the PDC Post.
4. We need to sustain and deepen our collaboration with our career center allies and with our very talented instructors.
5. We will continue searching for a possible new site for PDC’s Training Center.
6. We would like to develop more “blockbuster” workshops, ones that are popular and offer extremely high value. For example, we are planning to offer a two-day Project Management Certification Test Preparation course at an unbelievably low cost. People have asked for this course and Jack Nevison, a project management guru, has agreed to teach it.
I’ll finish by offering special thanks to all those who’ve helped us throughout 2016. We owe a debt of gratitude to Susan Munter and Candace Paris for their efforts to kickstart our grant writing efforts. Bruce Hemeon, PDC’s director of volunteers and tech operations, helped get the ball rolling on this effort. Jeff Stevens continues to gather, store and analyze information for our database while also turning up new resources to help PDC better serve our audience. Luis Vega maintains our website, Tom Archer our finances and Emily Hutchinson oversees the scheduling and planning of our training. Subash Srinivasan served this past year as PDC’s ambassador to area career centers, and Victoria Carter helps register people for our workshops as well as writing for the PDC Post, edited by Stephen Morgan. Our thanks go also to others who wrote for the Post this past year, including Edie Fossey, Hilary McCarthy, Dean Inouye, Karen Blomquist, David Hugh Smith, Candace Paris and Randall Warniers, plus Ethel Shepard, who helped with PDC’s public relations.
Very special thanks to Trinity Episcopal Church, Canton, where PDC’s training center is located, and Gil Swire, a PDC board member and facilities manager at Trinity. We also want to acknowledge the efforts of Tyler Putnam and Marie Silk who have volunteered with the PDC for the past four years.
Lastly, a tip of the hat to Linda Rohrer, the director of Career Source Career Center in Cambridge for her center’s collaboration with PDC for four years, and Ellie Rose, director of ETR Career Centers in Norwood and Framingham, and Lee-Ann Johnson, operations director at the ETR.
I wish all of our readers continuing success in their careers. Let’s make 2017 a year where making friends, being kind and making merry are just as much a priority as making money.
Larry Elle is president of the Professional Development Collaborative.