Having worked in hospitality for a number of years and having recently moved into a new role training and support role for an international hotel group, Stephen McCusker decided to return to education to gain a relevant qualification accredited by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, CIPD.
Stephen shares insights into studying the (CIPD) Diploma in Professional Learning and Organisational Development at National College of Ireland, including how he has applied what he has learned in his current role and his advice for anyone considering this programme, in the Q&A interview below.
1. Tell us about your career and educational background?
I got my degree many years ago in Tourism Management after studying in Edinburgh. When I finished that degree, I came back home to Ireland and was determined that I would never work in a hotel. Sixteen years, five companies and ten positions later I continue to work in the hospitality industry – working with hotels every day!
I’ve had many different positions over the years in operational and office-based roles. In recent years my work has organically evolved into a remote one, offering support to hospitality employees globally. I work for an international hotel company providing training support and guidance relating to an operating system the company is implementing.
2. Why did you choose to study the CIPD Diploma in Organisational Learning and Development at NCI?
As I mentioned above, the role I took on happened organically and I have (without aiming for it) moved into L&D in recent years. The more exposure I have had in that world, the more I want to learn. Throughout my career I had worked on training, supporting and mentoring team members – but I never had any recognised background or qualification in it.
I found the (CIPD) Diploma in Professional Learning and Organisational Development online and having heard of NCI's reputation in this space, I decided to visit for one of the Open Events. I got chatting with one of the lecturers there who gave me good insight and gave me a realistic view of the programme, clarifying what I already suspected – the benefit of a CIPD accredited course would be a great eye-catcher for potential employers in the future. After that, I was very keen to get into the course and found that the schedule would work for me in my remote role (working 100% from home).
3. Can you share some insights into studying this programme?
I found the course really beneficial for someone in my position. With not having any qualification in anything like Learning and Development, yet feeling I had the necessary skills and knowledge (or at least some of them), it was a good ‘first step’ for me. The modules were broad and a lot of ‘common sense’ could be integrated into them. Like any course, there is a level of theory involved but there are also several opportunities to get a bit creative and have some fun.
While the course was mostly online in the evenings, for me, the opportunity to get onsite also was great. It allowed me to meet my classmates and interact. Blended learning is ideal for me and something that I believe is so valuable today, even when such a focus is being put into online.
The class had a broad mix of people coming from different industries, experiences etc. and really helped in getting great insights into the world of L&D.
4. How have you been able to apply what you have learned on the course in your current role?
My main role before I took on the course was facilitation online. Since taking the course, I feel I have now mastered that (or am getting close) and use several skills and tips I gained along the way.
Further to that, before the course, I was a bit intimidated by the online tools available today for creating training. As the course opened up exposure to some of these tools, I have overcome that stigma and have designed my own training programmes and continue to design more with a creative touch, particularly from the insights gained in relation to how people learn.
5. What advice would you give to anyone considering a CIPD programme in L&D at NCI?
Be fully committed to the course and make sure you attend everything you can. While it's always likely that something will come up, attendance is invaluable to make sure you are capturing everything. Lecture notes will be provided but being there and being present is a sure way to get the most out of the course. Even if the thought of heading into Dublin on a Saturday morning doesn’t sound appealing, you are likely to feel the benefit at the end of the day.
I would also say to have no fears, a lot of the content is common sense. You have the chance to be creative in your thinking and no matter what previous experience you have, we all have had some exposure to learning in our lives, so we all have valuable contributions to give.
6. Finally, what’s next for you and your career?
I continue to work in my role but have so much more knowledge and can contribute so much more since I completed the course. My work has shifted more towards design now instead of facilitation and I am very happy to have the exposure to both.
Of course I always keep my eyes open for new roles and there are certainly plenty in the market in Learning and Development today. I’m also thinking of taking my next course in 2024 after a presentation given to us by one of the Guest Speakers that joined one of our classes during the course.
Stephen studied the (CIPD) Diploma in Professional Learning and Organisational Development at National College of Ireland. Thank you for submitting your story, Stephen!