Many organizations such as government environmental agencies, utilities, corporations and not-for-profits find they need to carry out environmental training. Many of them also have professional experts already on their staff who can deliver it.
Trainers call these invaluable people ‘subject matter experts’.
But training is a serious profession, as I found out for myself many years ago when I attended my first ‘Train the Trainer’ workshop to prepare myself to develop and deliver a major environmental training programme. It was scary being exposed to a big field of knowledge I knew very little about, and I immediately recognized I needed to take this new learning on board.
Let me introduce myself. My name is Clare Feeney and I am The Sustainability Strategist and founder of the Environment and Sustainability Strategy and Training Institute. I have worked in the environmental field for over 30 years, with a particular focus on environmental education and training for businesses. My technical work in watershed management, industrial waste minimization and resource efficiency, streambank restoration, sewage and stormwater management, environmental evaluation and many other areas has made me one of those ‘subject matter experts’.
I realized I had to become a trainer as well as an environmental manager when staff of an environmental regulatory agency asked me to help them develop a major training programme. So I joined the local branch of the Association of Training and Development and it was one of the best moves I ever made!
I was so impressed by the benefits of environment training that I presented a conference paper way back in 1999 on three totally different environmental training programmes I’d been working on. These were for people handling household hazardous waste, inspecting and certifying septic tanks, and carrying out erosion and sediment control on large construction sites. My paper won Third Prize in the Paper of the Year category – the first time a non-technical paper had received such an award in that professional association’s then 41 years of history.
Eleven years later, I presented a more detailed paper on the erosion and sediment control training programme at a conference in Vancouver Canada in 2010.
When that programme started my co-trainer and I thought there might be two or three years of training to deliver, then everyone would be trained and we could stop.
What actually happened turned out to be quite different: 15 years later, the programme was still going and had been endorsed by major government agencies that require their service providers to attend. Moreover this highly successful programme has – like the programmes we looked at when starting out – inspired a number of similar programmes around the country.
We’ve even had people from other countries attend our workshops to find out what we do.
We created a ‘premier’ programme! Michael Frankcombe, then President of the International Erosion Control Association of Australasia said it’s ‘the premier programme in our region bar none’. Mike was talking about good examples of soil and water management programmes at a local and state government level in Australia – and it was a New Zealand programme – ours – that he’d named! This is high praise indeed – the Australians, like the Americans, are doing wonderful work.