Administrative assistants are the glue that holds the campus together. From organizing files and drafting correspondences to generating reports and setting up meetings, they keep their department running smoothly. They also must be skilled in time management, communication, problem-solving, and technology proficiency.
When Ericka Smith, vice president for human resources and chief people officer, held a campuswide listening tour with classified staff in February 2021, one of the main things that came out of the discussion was a need and request for work-related skills training customized for administrative assistants.
The following year, Smith came up with a solution. She, along with Kahala Crayton, UNLV’s learning and development specialist, created the Administrative Assistant Academy (A3), an eight-week program that provides training and upskilling for UNLV administrative assistants.
The program was piloted in fall 2022 with great success, which then led to the spring 2023 soft launch. “The main focus during the pilot and soft launch was to find the right balance between hard/technical skills and soft skills when it comes to the curriculum,” Crayton said.
The program requires participants to take at least three in-person general and cohort sessions based on their learning path.
- Learning Path A: An administrative assistant (at UNLV for six months or less) who needs to gain knowledge about what is required to perform their duties here.
- Learning Path B: An administrative assistant (Administrative Assistant I or Administrative Assistant II) who can perform the foundational skills required of their job with minimal assistance.
- Learning Path C: An administrative assistant (Administrative Assistant III or Administrative Assistant IV) who has mastered the foundational skills required of their job and is capable of instructing others.
One of the cohort courses that Tiffini Tasby, an administrative assistant III for the School of Nursing, was intrigued by was on the topic of emotional intelligence. “I was privy to emotional intelligence already,” she said. “One of my mentors is an instructor who teaches this course. What struck a chord with me was the in-person setting and being among other people and listening to their experiences and stories.”
In addition to the three in-person general and cohort sessions, participants are also required to complete an additional eight courses (seminars, webinars, self-paced courses, etc.) according to their learning path and competency requirements.
Communication is one of the program’s key competencies. Training sessions focus on how to direct, foster, encourage, and facilitate open communication. “I really liked the communication and business etiquette course,” said Nohealani Benicarlo, administrative assistant III for the Office of the Senior Vice President of Business Affairs. “It gave us pointers on our body language and how we communicate.”
Resource management, the responsible planning and management of university resources, is another competency. It focuses on Workday, procurement, finance, and student employment. “These types of courses should be at the forefront of the program for administrative assistants who have been in the field for some time, but may be new to NSHE or UNLV,” said Jenny Ross, administrative assistant III for the Greenspun College of Urban Affairs Academic Advising Center.
For Benicarlo, the in-person NSHE/financial administrative assistant training was very beneficial. “It covered how to use Workday, which I use mostly for my job as an administrative assistant. The instructor kept us engaged by asking questions and guiding us through the exercises.”
The program also offers courses that participants can take at their own pace. “The web-based sessions on Microsoft Excel were useful because I use that program often,” Ross said. “I was able to apply those learned skills immediately. They were not only good refreshers, but I learned a lot of new information.”
The Administrative Assistant Academy program couldn’t have been launched at a better time as Human Resources recently introduced UNLV Talent Badges, a digital badging program for employees who complete certain training programs, including the Administrative Assistant Academy. Digital badges showcase an individual’s knowledge, skills, and abilities in a specific area of focus and can be shared across various online platforms such as LinkedIn.