President John F. Kennedy once said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other,” and this certainly rings true for government agency staff. Public servants play a critical role in leading their communities to success and through challenges. But in a time when municipalities face compounding pressures to stay agile, meet community needs and deliver services quickly, easily and transparently—all while managing stretched budgets and limited resources—staff training is becoming increasingly important.
With this in mind, in September 2022, Accela launched new training services in Accela University. Since its initial launch in 2020, Accela U has experienced continual traction with customers and partners, receiving more than 12,500 total training registrations, including 3,600 e-learning registrations from more than 370 unique organizations. Additionally, 630 different organizations have engaged with Accela’s live training sessions since its inception.
To learn more about how Accela University is helping customers maximize Accela solutions and empowering governments to deliver even more benefits to their communities, we connected with Accela Director of Global Technical Education Garrick Greenhalgh for the latest.
Hi Garrick! Will you walk through the thinking behind Accela U and what prompted this evolution?
Government agencies face many challenges, including increasing service expectations from residents, constantly evolving technology, and staffing shortages. These new challenges are causing agencies to reduce the number of technology vendors they partner with, consolidate the solutions they have on a single platform, and look at ways to maximize the resources they have to keep up with resident demand. Unfortunately, talent gaps and outdated IT knowledge within agencies can prevent them from delivering swift, up-to-date and effective solutions for their community’s growing needs.
Training has a positive impact on relieving these pressures and helping agencies create an integrated, frictionless experience within and across departments and when interacting with residents. Boosting knowledge of the latest technology can help government staff save time and create more efficient processes. As a result, agency employees can focus less on the pressures of their jobs and more on its purpose.
The COVID-19 pandemic prompted an urgent need to ramp-up Accela’s virtual training offerings so municipalities could continue to expand their knowledge and improve the services they offer to their communities. While these were necessary during stay-at-home orders, our customers and partners have requested we continue to build these out as they are incredibly convenient and effective, which led to our enhancement of Accela U offerings last fall.
What types of training does Accela U offer?
Accela University offers a robust curriculum of both instructor-led and self-paced events. E-learnings are video-based, topic-specific, micro-trainings available to all Accela users free of charge. These modules can be repeated as needed and completed on an employee’s individual schedule, allowing staff to address specific areas of interest.
Live scheduled training sessions are instructor-led virtual learning events. These last between four hours to four days depending on the topic and are competitively priced at rates below industry averages.
Training topics include solution-specific sessions focusing on best practices for the Accela Civic Platform, Accela Citizen Access, Accela Mobile and more; sessions on best use cases, configurations and APIs; topical trainings; technical trainings and career advancement programs, which center on our Accela certifications to help develop deep expertise.
How does Accela U help agencies improve its communities?
What is really special about Accela U is its scale. It is truly powerful to see how the lessons learned from the platform are translating into meaningful impact in our communities.
For example, in one course, an agency IT team might learn some new automation skills for scaling their Accela Civic Platform instance. Not only will this make their day-to-day work easier, but it empowers them to make the essential community services that we all rely on – permitting, building, licensing, and more – easier for everyone. Whether it’s a resident looking to get back into their home as quickly as possible following a natural disaster or a restaurant owner who is employing people in their community, this knowledge has an incredible impact on everyday lives.
How can Accela U help different agency team members, despite differences in level or role?
With Accela U, agencies can organize training courses around specific roles within their organization. For example, for the City of Cleveland, Ohio, training was tailored around six distinct groups – approvers, back office, inspectors, reviewers, technical and financial users – to ensure they each received relevant instruction. This provided more specific training for each role, more quickly, while also making better use of their time.
Additionally, many government agencies are facing staffing challenges, meaning efficiency is top of mind. People don’t have the time – and don’t find it enjoyable – to sit in training sessions that aren’t relevant to them.
What are some of the results agencies are seeing by relying on Accela U?
Many jurisdictions are already seeing a significant positive impact by relying on Accela U. Sarasota County, for example, trained the majority of its staff on Accela Civic Platform best practices in the span of a few months. Agency staff completed e-trainings around their individual schedules, and this flexibility helped the county complete training several weeks faster than if it relied on only on-site, in-person sessions.
The training platform also helped Sarasota County find new budget efficiencies. Since January 2023, 217 county employees completed over 3,371 e-learning modules, which equates to 30 full weeks – or over $200,000 – in potential training savings thanks to Accela U.
The City of Cleveland is achieving similar results while getting staff up-to-speed on a new version of the Accela Civic Platform. The city turned to Accela U to update staff on the upgrade, while also avoiding any interruptions in community services.
Nearly 400 staff members completed 3,064 e-learning modules as part of this effort and by moving to e-learnings, everyone received the same level of training regardless of when they participated in it. Leadership was also freed up of the time they would normally spend leading multiple training sessions to focus on more pressing needs.
Can you share what kind of training Accela will be offering during its annual fall conference, Accelarate 2023?
Accela Training will be offered onsite at Accelarate 2023, which will be hosted this year at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, MD September 24-27, 2023. We will have an Accela U booth in the Accela Experience Center which will be manned by training experts during the conference. And on September 27th, for an additional fee, we’ll be hosting training open to both customers and partners, which can be signed up for either a half or a full day program during conference registration.
We understand how important technical designations are for business and professional growth so the Accelarate 2023 training events offered at the conference will include select technical topics such as Advanced Accela GIS, ERD Fundamentals, Civic Application Implementation Strategies, Stage Test Plan Development and Regression Testing, Architecting your Civic Platform Solutions and Developing and Sharing Accela Insights Dashboards.
What’s next for Accela U and how can customers stay up to date on the latest training?
For tenured Accela Administrators, Accela University will begin offering regular Certification Test-out options later in 2023.
Our core curriculum is found at Accela University and is available year round including a new series of end-user trainings designed to introduce end-users to the Civic Platform functions. These self-paced e-learnings are complimentary and available to all agency users.
Are you ready to learn more about Accela University and how it can help your agency maximize both its knowledge of Accela solutions and its community impact? Please visit our Accela U page.