Courses Offer Employees Leadership Training

AMES, Iowa — Finding the time and opportunity to gain valuable experience can be difficult for employees looking to move up within their organization. With the Iowa Public Employees Leadership Academy, public sector employees have a convenient and easy-to-access way to gain training that will benefit them as supervisors. The academy, which got its start as a request from the Iowa Chapter of the American Public Works Association, is a series of 14 computer-based modules that can replace in-person workshops for employees looking to gain leadership-related skills for supervisory roles.

“We needed to find a way to deliver employee development training that was conveniently accessible and could be completed in-house as an employee’s workload allowed,” said Robert Sperry, Leadership Academy coordinator. “By delivering the modules on the computer, employees can complete sections in as little as 30 to 45 minutes, allowing them to train at their own convenience and pace.”

The modules for the Leadership Academy were designed by Iowa’s Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP), part of Iowa State University’s Institute for Transportation. Each module focuses on an individual topic, such as finance or resource management, and was first recorded as an in-person workshop, with several experts presenting on the topic. Each session’s recording is offered online through Iowa State University Extension and can be completed in sections, with self-assessment quizzes for participants to test their knowledge. At the completion of each module, participants receive a certificate for that module from the Leadership Academy.

“These modules cover a broad scope of topics, many of which can help all employees, whether public or private, to improve their skills to better qualify for leadership positions in their organizations,” Sperry said. “While all 14 modules are useful for supervisory roles, some employees may want to just take one or two modules that directly pertain to their current role to improve their knowledge and skills in those particular areas.”

Each module costs only $75, and participants have 90 days to complete them, allowing the module to be spaced out over several sessions if needed. The modules also save employees and their agencies money by not requiring travel or other expenses. Some employers may be willing to allow time and/or reimbursement for certain courses that are completed. The 14 modules are:

  • Supervisory Techniques and Skills — covers basic supervisory and management techniques that aid a new supervisor in planning, directing and motivating in an efficient manner.
  • Team Development — discusses skills related to managing highly motivated employees, such as treating people with respect, understanding their needs and involving them in vital decision processes.
  • Communications Skills — takes a comprehensive look at effective communication strategies, including public relations, presentations and effective meetings.
  • Leadership Skills — explores the concepts of creating a vision for the future and the ability to communicate that vision to others to create a unified work plan.
  • Community Service/Customer Orientation — examines the need for and the practice of community service and customer orientation through the use of employee skills with media and the public.
  • Legal Understanding — discusses having a working understanding of issues surrounding local, state and federal regulations as being critical to avoid legal liabilities and to promote successful operations.
  • Fundamentals of Government — examines the organization, operation and interaction of branches of government at the federal, state and local levels.
  • Finance — discusses the budget process, including striking a balance between the effective and efficient delivery of responsive services and the long-term development and preservation of the organization’s economic base.
  • Resource Management — is organized to develop key areas of focus: strategic planning, creative decision making, budgeting and contracting, basic project management, consultant management and effective crew scheduling.
  • Operations and Maintenance — examines most aspects of the operational and maintenance tasks of local transportation departments — such as traffic management and control, maintenance of roadways and streets, gravel, culverts and snow and ice control and removal — and the typical interactions of each, both with the public and other departments.
  • Basic Management — covers skills that are the responsibilities of a manager, such as planning, organizing, staffing, directing, coordinating and reporting on the activities of a public works department.
  • Emergency Management (coming May 2011) — examines the steps required to make the tasks involved with natural disasters as simple as possible, both in individual departments and entire municipalities, as well as discusses area-wide planning, training exercises and assistance available from the state and federal homeland security and emergency management agencies.
  • Project Management (coming July 2011) — discusses several steps in successful management including subdividing a project into segments and tasks, such as planning, approvals, budgeting and executing a contract, which require skills such as coordination of teams and crews and good communication.
  • Winter Maintenance Management (coming July 2011) — details the process of planning ahead, developing policies (to match level of service and budget) and using forecasts and conditions to choose proper chemicals and abrasives, as well as examines new and proven snow-fighting techniques, what other agencies have done and what future technology is in the works.

Visit the Leadership Academy for more information or to take courses:

For more information about the Leadership Academy, contact Robert Sperry, academy coordinator, at 515-294-7311 or

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Additional contacts:
Bob Sperry, Leadership Academy Coordinator, 515-294-7311,