Ministry of Works Holds Educational Lectures During Lunch Breaks
NASSAU, The Bahamas – Lunch breaks are typically used for grabbing a bite, collecting kids from school or socializing with colleagues but for the past several months the staff at the Ministry of Public Works (MOPW) have swapped traditional lunch activities to hone in on lectures on a broad array of stimulating subject areas.
Since March, each Thursday, the Ministry has created a forum where outstanding speakers present their views during a Distinguished Lecture Series.
The 30 to 45-minute presentation sessions organized by staff are facilitated in an informal setting in the Conference Room.
Melanie Roach, Director, said the lecture series was established to present specific and general knowledge applicable to all sections. She said the information is provided for everyone to enhance their knowledge base and productivity.
Since its launch, speakers have included employees and private sector representatives who have presented on topics of common interest including Potholes, Drainage, Hurricane Preparedness, Auditing Capital Projects, Road Maintenance and Traffic Management, the Hawk Pedestrian Crossing, and Good Design and Your Role.
“Knowledge is not static,” said Ms. Roach. “It’s continuing every day and every day you have new discoveries and technologies. It’s very important for the staff of Public Works to always be in a learning environment. Most of us would have graduated some 4, 10, 30 and 40 years ago. We can’t just rely on knowledge that was gained in school. We need to be able to share our experience as we do our jobs and learn from others.”
The Hon. Desmond Bannister, Minister, said the lecture series is about bringing the talented staff of the MOPW together and allowing them to have an appreciation for the purpose of the Ministry, the focus of the Ministry, what the staff does, where they can go with it, how far they can take it and how dynamic the Ministry really is.
“I’ve been sitting in and learning and learning a lot. This is a Ministry where you can learn something new every single day.
“That focus has been provided by exemplary, outstanding staff members who I am really proud to say that I work with; people who are tremendous leaders and who are coming into their own as outstanding leaders in this Ministry and in the community and country.
“The other aspect of it is very important as to putting people together so that staff appreciate — notwithstanding the diverse nature of their duties and the fact that every day they go off on their own different directions and seemingly focus on their own little projects — when you look at it from the perspective of an organization, it all comes together.
So you have the quantity surveyors working in one corner, you have the architects doing their thing, you have all these people doing diverse tasks and they don’t necessarily see that there is one big picture. It comes together beautifully in this Ministry when they work together.
“This series brings them together so they can appreciate the amazing things that they do. It is to a great extent unappreciated in our community because we don’t have a Ministry where there is boastfulness, where we provide the kind of public relations as we should, but the people in this Ministry do amazing work and if they didn’t do what they did every single day you would see this whole society just dropping down, falling apart.
“I think the series is going to get many of them to appreciate the scope of where they can go if they work towards achieving their potential.”
Antoinette Thompson, Permanent Secretary, said the Ministry is progressively looking to transform the way it does business by equipping staff with the required skills and competencies.
“The MOPW is minded to not only develop our staff professionally, technically and otherwise from an industry standards perspective, from a benchmarking perspective in the wider arena and in the wider public service, but we are also minded to empower — that relates to putting them in a position where they can embrace both challenges and opportunities to progress themselves professionally, personally and otherwise.
“This Distinguished Lecture Series is a testament to that because it allows for exposure, knowledge transfer, and it allows for knowledge acquisition,” said Ms. Thompson.
The lunchtime lecture series is growing and evolving. Feedback from staff is positive.
“When we started in this room there were just a few persons. We have to take it to Physical Planning [building across the street] because it’s expanding.
“People are noticing and noticing more. It’s like a chain effect. The word is getting around,” said Nandi Maynard, a member of the organizing committee.
“People have a perception about the Public Service that there is a knowledge deficit, the people are unprofessional and you have to fight to survive. I won’t say it is a survival of the fittest but you have to equip yourself with the necessary knowledge and skills to survive and see your job through.
“From the administrative side, this is a whole new world to me. I would always see the job getting done, but I never understood the processes behind how all of it happened. This has afforded me the opportunity to gain exposure, to network and to just be informed.”
Elouise Fernander, Quantity Surveyor and committee member, said the series is helping to strengthen camaraderie in the Ministry. “We get beat down in the Ministry. We are hard-working people but we don’t get a good report out there.”
Bahiyyah Hepburn, said the trend at the Ministry is to foster and environment of learning and growth.
“As one of the Assistant Engineers, I’m greatly benefiting from this. I’m interacting; not just understanding what’s going on in different sections, but learning about what’s going on in different Ministries. The most rounded civil servant is the civil servant who has interacted with the rest of the civil service.
“This is an environment for people who want to grow. In a multi-sector – a team of different backgrounds — when you are able to appreciate what the next person is doing you increase your efficiency,” added Ms. Hepburn.
Speakers are selected based on needs.
“We have architects and all the various disciplines of engineers. We now have to start looking at administrative people. This is a technical ministry but administration helps us to execute our jobs.”
She continued, “We’re literally the last line. We have to hold the line. As shaky as it seems that we’re not holding the line, we have to. We are it. When hurricanes come, we make sure emergency crews are out there and clear the road. We are it.
“We are public servants who are dedicated to the public safety of everybody in The Bahamas. This lecture series reminds you of that. It reminds you who you’re working for, how important you are and what your role is. Sometimes you forget because you just do it,” said Ms. Hepburn.