Trainings During Pandemic a Hit with Members

October 21, 2020
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Featured image by Darren Michaels

Craft trainings are one of the most popular services offered by Local 600. But the COVID-19 pandemic created a potentially crippling challenge to the union’s Training Committee when in-person gatherings of more than 10 people were deemed unsafe. Instructors and students meeting face-to-face had always been such an important component to the training.

But in true “never say die” fashion, Training Committee members considered the situation an opportunity rather than a setback. Pivoting expertly, the committee took its existing curriculum and revamped it for Zoom, converting the craft-specific trainings to an online format.

The Chicago Loader Training in January earlier this year was one of the last in-person trainings held. Photo by Sandy Morris.

Since the March 13 shutdown, the Training Committee has held trainings for digital utility, digital loading, paperwork, and wireless, among others. They also created a camera operating panel where members had the opportunity to hear first-hand from experienced operators. A much-anticipated first AC training is slated to take place before the end of 2020 and the committee is discussing syllabi for Directors of Photography and Publicists. While the in-person classes were capped at 26 – often leaving dozens of members on a waiting list – the Zoom classes can accommodate up to 200 attendees and have regularly drawn 100 or more.

Thanks to the move to online trainings in 2020,more than 1,080 members have learned new skills since March. With geography no longer an issue, members from all over the country (not just hub cities) have access. The increased access also means that people in different classifications can more easily sign up for trainings in other subjects that interest them. The only requirement is that a member be in good standing.

“We have been touching far more members as a committee than we ever have in the last three years,” said National Training Coordinator Richard Negri.

“We also found that in this COVID-escalated environment, a lot of people were showing up who were so thankful for the training because it got them the opportunity to feel less alone. That was an added benefit,” he continued. “We showed them that their union is still there.”

Negri credited the success of the transition to a number of factors. The Training Committee has sent out evaluation forms to participants after every training. The evaluations provide valuable feedback on what members feel is working and on what needs improvement. The evaluations also reveal trends in the kinds of future offerings members hope to see.

Negri praised the vision and leadership of Training Committee Co-Chair Rocker Meadows and National Vice President Dejan Georgevich, ASC, as well as National Executive Board members Jamie Metzger, Tammy Fouts, Jamie Felz and Tom Zimmerman. Experienced members like Betsy Peoples and Kathleen Corcoran have provided invaluable assistance by helping session attendees with chat questions.

“Zoom has a chat function and people would start asking very poignant and amazing questions,” said Negri. “When we have people like that present observing training, they are actually able to field those questions with the same authority as the instructor. They have been able to answer questions, and answer follow ups to those questions, and we found that it was a real relief to the instructor.”

Training Committee administrators acknowledged that, even with the new procedures in place, members still long for in-person classes. In a pandemic-free world, they envision a hybrid training model combining in-person and online components. For the time being, however, the success of the online training is the classic example of, as Georgevich puts it, “getting lemons and serving lemonade.”

“Our training events provide our members something tangible with meaningful takeaways. It nourishes and connects us to be better in our craft,” Georgevich said. “That’s what solidarity is all about.”

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