Get in friends, we’re going to the CSPS Digital Academy

You have likely heard of the Canada School of the Public Service (CSPS), the educational institution for the Government of Canada (GC), now meet the newest member of the family: the Digital Academy. The CSPS Digital Academy was launched in 2018, as a place for public servants to learn and enhance their digital skills in order to better serve our country and its people.

When you stroll into Bayview Yards, the innovative building which hosts the CSPS Digital Academy, you are exposed to plant walls, open concept presentation rooms and bright red architecture. My colleague and I take the winding stairs up to meet Chris Allison, Director General of the Digital Academy.

Sharpening our skills

“It’s an institute that allows public servants, like you or me, to strengthen our digital skills in order to keep up with the evolvement of digital in today’s world.”

It’s early on a Monday morning, as usual I’m struggling to avoid spilling coffee all over myself, yet Chris’ smile says it’s Friday afternoon. We sit down in his office where I ask him to tell me all about the Academy. He explains that, “it’s an institute that allows public servants, like you or me, to strengthen our digital skills in order to keep up with ever changing world of digital. By enhancing our digital skills, it allows us to deliver the kind of digital services that Canadians expect.” Whether it is through the use of smartphones to order a cup of coffee, social media to network with people around the world, or apps that can unlock our cars, it’s apparent that our world is becoming more and more digitized. With the birth of places like the Digital Academy, it’s clear that the GC is prioritizing its commitment to serve Canadians in the best, and most current ways possible.

We all start somewhere

“It’s important to recognize that everyone is coming from a different place. Not everybody has the same digital knowledge.”

“The goal of the Academy is to upscale the public service in terms of digital skills,” Chris tells us. The Academy is all about discovering how we can work smarter, not harder, by learning and understanding the tools available to us. It’s about finding technology that supports the work we are doing now and learning how we can enable these tools to work better in the future. We can all get better at understanding technology and learning how it affects our work, employees and citizens. However, there is something to keep in mind as much of our lives become digital, as Chris points out, “it’s important to recognize that everyone is coming from a different place. Not everybody has the same digital knowledge.” The Academy certainly recognizes that there are variations of our digital skill sets as they encourage growth and continued learning for all-levels of public servants.

Groundwork makes the dream work

Chris explains that at Digital Academy, they have three different streams of learning:

  1. Digital Foundations: this is learning for all public servants. It aims to provide a fundamental understanding of digital trends, tools and approaches in order to create a foundation upon which more complex learning relies.
  2. Digital Premium: this learning is intended for practitioners and is all about deeper, experiential learning in data, AI and machine learning, design, and DevOps (development operations). This stream focuses on capacity building, addressing skill gaps and intensive learning. It includes a strong focus on mindsets: talking to users and understanding UX (user experience) and being agile.
  3. Digital Leadership: this stream is about developing digital skills in our leaders and managers. This stream focuses on the changes happening in our environment and aims to help leaders embrace the mindset needed for their organizations to succeed in a changing world.

If you’re interested in participating in any of the Academy’s specialized training courses, they encourage you to sign up to the DA mailing list for updates. If you’re interested in the premium stream, start a conversation with your manager today to get ready for Cohort 3 (launching in 2020) and build it into your learning plan.

“People would come into the program on a Monday, with no clue on how to do something and by Friday, they were fluent in it. We had people going through the rollercoaster of terror of not being able to do it to ‘wow, I can do it!’ within a few days. It was amazing.”

Chris’ favourite component of the learning? He says it’s the Premium experience. I ask him why that stream in particular and he explains that, “people would come into the program on a Monday, with no clue on how to do something and by Friday, they were fluent in it. We had people going through the rollercoaster of panic in not being able to do a thing to ‘wow, I can do it!’ within a few days. It was amazing.” He tells us that the potential for people to learn in a collaborative, empowering environment and come out with a new belief in their own ability is really meaningful to him.

While change is inevitable, it’s obvious that the CSPS Digital Academy is taking a step in the right direction. With their specialized training programs, they are helping to equip public servants with the skills and support they need to succeed. It’s all about embracing how working differently can improve the GC and ultimately, allowing us to better serve Canadians.

 

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