EEOC not letting pandemic keep it from educating

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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission wants to make sure the education of staff practitioners doesn’t stop because of the pandemic. In fact this week its hosting a major educational event. With details, the assistant director of the office of federal operations, Patricia St. Clair joined Federal Drive with Tom Temin.

Interview transcript:

Tom Temin: Mrs. St. Clair, good to have you on.

Patricia St. Clair: Great to be on.

Tom Temin: You are the specialist for training and education for the EEOC professional staff. Before we get into the event, just give us a sense of what are the ongoing training and education requirements for the professional staff.

Patricia St. Clair: So currently, my division provides training and education across the federal government for EEO professionals and EEO practitioners. So we offer a 32 hour new investigator course. as well as a 32 hour new counselor course. These are actually regulatory requirements for anybody who wishes to serve as a federal counselor or investigator.

Tom Temin: These are people then not just at EEOC, but in all the agencies that have the EEO responsibility.

Patricia St. Clair: Absolutely. As a matter of fact, our division provides the training and education across the federal government. So EEO practitioners within the EEOC with also have the option to attend our courses in our outreach events as well. So this is a federal governmentwide initiative, and we provide training and education across the federal government.

Tom Temin: And what are some of the topics that people need to be versed in?

Patricia St. Clair: The laws we enforce, of course. Title VII, age discrimination, the Rehab Act, and also the administrative case processing for EEO. We also focus in on the laws reinforce and EEO training initiatives, such as diversity and inclusion, implicit bias training, programmatic efficiencies in processing EEO complaints.

Tom Temin: Got it. And just a side question, then. With all of the emphasis and discussion on racial issues that are occurring across the country, has that had an impact on that type of training and education? One, what it is that agencies delivered to their employees. And number two, what the EEOC is delivering to the agency practitioners.

Patricia St. Clair: The EEOC has always remained consistent with the type of training we deliver under Title VII that deals with race. So since this is something the EEOC has been teaching on since our inception, EEOC has remained consistent and compliant with the laws that we enforce.

Tom Temin: You have an event coming up, imagine that’s not going to be in person. Tell us about EdCon is an annual and what happens there.

Patricia St. Clair: EdCon actually is a new initiative that began, I would say, back in 2018. We were sitting around talking about how we could best serve federal EEO and diversity and inclusion practitioners. We were thinking about how we can have a greater impact. We wanted to create a space for practitioners where they could share resources, facilitate networking opportunities, and possibly look at exploring a certification program. So what we did was we actually sent out a survey to our EEO community. And as a result of the survey, we learned that there’s an overwhelming desire to have a consortium in association for federal EEO practitioners, and added this initiative, EdCon was born.

Tom Temin: What happens at EdCon?

Patricia St. Clair: EdCon has three main focuses. And the three main focuses happens to be education. And education really is about how do we provide top notch educational offerings to our EEO practitioners so that we can build on their existing skills while developing their competencies in key areas. And then we look at engagement, recognizing that the federal government is a big place, right. We have people all over the globe. So if we can create a space through EdCon, for the federal EEO community to come together and actually strengthen bonds, share information and learn from each other. And lastly, we learned from our survey, that there’s actually an overwhelming interest in the exploration of standing up a certification program. So it’s an opportunity for EEO practitioners to further enhance their skills and to demonstrate their competencies in critical areas. So the EdCon consortium has those three specific committees — and that’s our goal.

Tom Temin: Your event tomorrow, what will be happening there?

Patricia St. Clair: Actually this is our first event, it’s an open house and a membership drive to introduce the community to EdCon. So as I said earlier, we started in 2018 with the survey. In 2019, we really worked with building out the foundation for EdCon, what it would look like. Our charter, our advisory board, standing up a concrete mission and vision statement. And now we’re ready to introduce the start of EdCon to our federal community. So we are really excited about this open house. It is an opportunity for our stakeholders to hear about the Education Consortium, and what the offerings will be.

Tom Temin: And so people can go somewhere to do this?

Patricia St. Clair: This is critical information. It’ll be hosted on WebEx, we absolutely will be virtual. We have been advertising it through our social media accounts — through Facebook, Twitter, as well as through gov delivery service. So folks can find out about it through those avenues.

Tom Temin: Just getting to the bigger issue. I guess I’m surprised that given the fact that there has been an EEO functioning community at the state level, at the federal level, I guess at the industrial level for a good 40 some years or so, that there has not been this type of association of professionals in this field until now.

Patricia St. Clair: I would say we have been doing this ad hoc, because we have our annual Excel Conference, which is an opportunity for state, local and federal to come together. And we have an executive leadership conference we host for federal EEO leaders. So throughout the Commission’s history, we have had different government wide events that are open to EEO practitioners on all levels. This is more of a concerted effort to create a space and a place for EEO practitioners in the advent of technology. So with the creation of technology, we’ve said, hey let’s really start to leverage technology to reach our stakeholders in a more ongoing way.

Tom Temin: Some of the functions that federal EEO people perform are similar to those that industry has, because a lot of any publicly traded corporation and most large non public corporations have an EEO type of function and advertise their Equal Opportunity state. Would those people be part of this? or could they — could there be a best practices exchange between the government and industry on EEO types of issues?

Patricia St. Clair: Absolutely, absolutely. So the mission of EdCon is to work with federal practitioners to create a diverse and inclusive federal government space that will attract the best and the brightest, of course, to our federal government. And working with private industry and state and local, it will just be an opportunity for the continued sharing of, knowledge, information and exchange. So we’re not closing off the opportunity for state, local and private sector to participate. As a matter of fact, we would welcome it. It would allow us to really have an exchange of ideas and more robust exchange of ideas.

Tom Temin: And just a final question on certification. How would that work? Who says someone’s certified and what would it take to get certified as you envision it?

Patricia St. Clair: So absolutely, I’m glad you said as you envision it, because the certification committee was stood up as an exploratory committee. So we are looking into what does that mean. When we talk about standardizing the profession, what happens to be the core competencies we would want to test on as we look at standardizing the profession. And is it a certification program? Is it a certificate based assessment would be like to partner with a college or university. So we’re still exploring what that means for the EEO community.

Tom Temin: Patricia St. Clair is the Assistant Director of the Office of Operations at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission specializing in training and education. Thanks so much for joining me.

Patricia St. Clair: Thanks for having me.

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