- By Greg Langlois
- Sep 03, 2001
George Koch is on the prowl for new courses. As team leader for the Federal Learning Technology Resource Center, which operates the Federal Learning Exchange training resources portal, Koch and his staff are working to swell their comprehensive listing of training courses available to federal workers.
Koch said he hopes to add 8,000 to 15,000 agency and private-sector courses, programs and seminars to the exchange's database within the next year, in addition to the 12,000 listed so far. And that's just the beginning. "There's a good 50,000 courses out there, easily," he said.
The Federal Learning Exchange (www.flx.gov), created through an executive order under President Clinton and launched in June 2000, is designed to be a ready reference tool for federal workers interested in developing or acquiring new skills. With thousands of training offerings available, this online "yellow pages" can help workers find what's relevant to them, Koch said.
"The whole point of the Federal Learning Exchange is to capture all that training and pull it together under one roof," he said. "The idea is to help folks begin to understand what's out there."
FLX also helps agencies understand what's out there, and perhaps combine efforts and reduce duplication, Koch said.
That could be one of FLX's biggest benefits, said Ronald MacNab, director of technology learning services for the Agriculture Department's Graduate School, which has submitted almost all of its course offerings to FLX.
"It opens the door to shared planning, shared building and basically communication among the agencies that have not existed before," MacNab said. "Why create seven duplicate courses? Why not have seven agencies go in and create one good course?"
The portal also lets agencies and vendors showcase what they have to offer, said Marylou Whelan, a consultant to the National Academy of Public Administration's (NAPA) Center for Human Resources Management. The Federal Learning Technology Resource Center, which is funded by the Labor Department and housed in the Defense Department's Advanced Distributed Learning Co-Laboratory, is a member of NAPA's Human Resources Management Consortium.
"The most important thing the Federal Learning Exchange is trying to do is standardize approaches to sharing [agencies'] individual resources," Whelan said. FLX is "adding another dimension to training in the federal government."
Site visitors can search by keyword or specific categories, including basic computing, information technology and telecommunications. They can also choose how a training course is delivered (such as Web-based training or traditional classroom training) and whom to take it from (an agency or an agency- approved vendor).
Koch and his staff have begun partnering with some professional communities within government, such as financial managers and human resources managers, to tailor training searches to their needs.
Whelan said that NAPA officials are developing a list of core IT competencies that human resources professionals need to perform their jobs well and that NAPA is partnering with FLX to help professionals find training in the areas identified.
FLX visitors can already search directly from the home page for courses that address the core competencies that the Chief Financial Officers Council and the Joint Financial Management Improvement Program have established for financial managers. Janet Laytham, a staff member with the Labor Department's CFO office, said the partnership was launched after financial managers attending a 1998 conference said they were eager for a simple way to sift through all of the training available to them.
"The best idea they had was, "Help us find the education; organize the search,' " Laytham said.
That was beyond the CFO Council's scope, but shortly afterward, Clinton signed the executive order, and Koch began developing FLX. Laytham worked with major training providers to indicate what courses listed on FLX address specific CFO core competencies, she said.
Koch said that he's talked with CIO Council representatives within the past several months about providing a similar core competency search capability but that nothing concrete is in the works.
As the government workforce continues to shrink, access to training has become imperative, Koch said. FLX is designed to simplify that access.Defining FLX
The Federal Learning Exchange was created through a January 1999 executive order and is a close relative of America's Learning Exchange, which lists training opportunities available to the public. FLX and ALX are part of a series of Web-based career development tools launched by the Labor Department. Others include America's Job Bank, which lists more than 1.5 million job openings and allows job hunters to post resumes, and America's Career InfoNet, which includes skills assessments and job market information.