Learning has a seat at the TTC

by Hailey Chan

To transport half a billion of Toronto riders a year, the TTC’s training and development department works hard all year round. Inside the department, you’ll find that nearly 90 per cent of staff are instructors. Courses for subway operators, fare collectors and even chainsaw safety and welding are developed and delivered here.

Seth Irvine, Manager of Curriculum Development and Education at the TTC comes from a long family tradition of teachers and educators. According to Irvine, his success as an L&D professional is all thanks to his curiosity. “Because we have so much to learn ourselves, we can’t necessarily be an expert in every aspect of the courses we develop,” he says. You can’t be afraid to ask questions in an environment that develops more than 200 courses to onboard, train and refresh 22,000 trainees.

In his last five years at the TTC, he’s seen it begin to move away from print job-aids and pocket manuals towards tablet, computer-based training. Irvine and his team will soon be able to build modules more quickly and manage learning content more easily.

“Organizationally, often things happen in isolation. We can play a role of bringing everyone to the table to facilitate interaction and share best practices. There’s an appreciation [at the TTC] for our ability to do that.”

Irvine credits a strong department head for the increasing recognition of the training department. “There are different understandings of what the role of training is. Some organizations see it as regulatory, compliance, checkboxes, the mandated minimum…we’re making a case for the value of proper training and for engaging people, instead of lecturing them,” he says.

“There are more and more opportunities for our department to be involved, because of the respect for our instructors and managers.”

Most of the instructors at the TTC come from an operating background, as many seasoned operators move into the training department. Instructors are required to hold an adult education certificate from Institute-recognized programs such as George Brown College, Humber College, Centennial College, Seneca College or Conestoga College. “I’m taking the Master’s Certificate in Adult Training and Development at Schulich, and part of the reason I signed up for that was because of its connection with the Institute,“ Irvine says.

His own team of instructional designers come from a technical writing background. Because of the importance of safety, copy needs to be “legally defensible and validated,” he adds. “Our team greatly appreciates the opportunities to meet and collaborate with other L&D professionals through programs and events that the Institute for Performance and Learning provides,” Irvine says.

One of the challenges he faces at work is the “amount of change and scope of what our department delivers,” Irvine says. Depending on the skill, employees can be mandated to get re-certified annually due to curriculum changes.

What’s next for the TTC’s training department? Developing and delivering training in support of the efforts to phase out fare collectors, a full implementation of Presto and automatic train control on a portion of Line 1 (like the Sky Train in Vancouver), which will create greater efficiencies.

“Sometimes people may not appreciate what we’re able to accomplish with the resources we have available to us. We are, despite what people may think, efficient at what we do. We’re passionate about delivering world class service to city of Toronto,” Irvine says.

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