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Sharpening Soft Skills Goal of Professional Development Program

Image of A service member watches a computer screen. Air Force Maj. Theodore Urbano, chief of DHA’s Education and Training directorate’s policy and programming branch, facilitates a training series on resiliency in the workplace. Skills-based professional development sessions like this one allow all DHA employees to continue to learn and grow as professionals, all virtually and at no cost. (Photo: Yolanda Mose’, DHA)

An active brain is a healthy brain, experts agree.

Engaging in lifelong learning provides the opportunity to learn new skills, and participating in mentally and socially stimulating activities helps keep your brain healthy, according to a study the National Institutes of Health published in 2021.

At the Defense Health Agency, the skills-based professional development program offers its global workforce an opportunity to engage in both and do so remotely.

DHA’s program aims to provide “mid-career DHA employees—including military, civilians, and contractors—with soft skills to develop their leadership and managerial capacity,” said Yolanda Mose’, the program’s lead at DHA’s Education and Training Directorate.

Soft skills are non-technical skills that allow an individual to perform their job successfully, such as communicating and working well with others, and managing their time properly.

“The program is an additional resource for all DHA employees to sharpen their professional skills,” said Mose’.

Fulfilled Staff

Offering employees opportunities to enhance their skills at work is one way to ensure staff are fulfilled in the work they do, which is one of DHA’s strategic objectives.

“The program seeks to achieve success by focusing on crucial competencies to allow learners to enhance their interpersonal and non-technical workplace skills,” said Mose’.

Focusing on soft skills can have a “huge impact” on the workforce, she said, because they’re just as important as technical skills for people advancing in their careers, especially when they adopt supervisory roles overseeing others.

“The program offers over 19 sessions and learning opportunities, to include topics on project management, change management, professional etiquette, resiliency, teambuilding, and others,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Theodore Urbano, program facilitator and chief of the directorate’s policy and programming branch.

“As a result of attending the trainings, participants leave with tangible skills, such as interpersonal communication, and the ability to develop plans of action and milestones they can immediately apply to their work center and even personal lives,” he added.

How to Enroll?

The skills-based development program is available online at no cost to employees. Learners can register for the hour-long sessions on DHA’s intranet.

“There is no selection process and anyone with a Common Access Card can register,” said Urbano.

Sessions are available throughout the calendar year and include series such as one on resiliency in the workplace and another on professional etiquette. There are also stand-alone sessions on team building, developing a Plan of Action and Milestones, known as a POA&M, and delegating effectively, among others.

After completing a session, learners receive certificates of completion and attendance.

In addition to the calendar of sessions, Mose’ said customized programs are also available. She encourages supervisors use those as team-building exercises.

“Using our training material and topics as a baseline, we customize the sessions to your team’s needs and facilitate only to your team,” she said.

Positive Experiences

Urbano facilitates an eight-part series on resiliency in the program. As a master resilience trainer, he leverages his expertise to “increase awareness and teach learners how to use various resilience strategies.”

In his experience, participants really enjoy the series, which launched in April.

The topics seem relevant, he said, “because the discussions are rich, and participants are sharing personal stories that others can appreciate and learn from. It’s a wonderful atmosphere.”

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Susan Mojica, director of population health at the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center, in Portsmouth, Virginia, has benefitted from and had a positive experience with the program. She has taken three sessions and registered for two more.

“The program has served as a review of some foundational skills, provided updated resources and exposure to colleagues in other organizations, which may lead to networking and collaborative opportunities,” she said. “It also renewed my enthusiasm for personal and organizational professional development.”

Mojica explained that she took a POA&M session customized for her team’s needs. As a result, she feels the updated information and positive session delivery improve her performance.

“I’m more self-assured in my ability to lead a team or project using a POA&M.”

She now confidently recommends the program to her team, colleagues, and leaders.

For more information on DHA’s skills-based professional development program, email the Education and Training team.

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