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Glenn Hegar  ·  Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

Where is FM training taking you?

Originally Published in Statewise Summer 2008

by Michael S. Roberts

Change is constant in state government. Sometimes it comes predictably, like at the end of a legislative session. Other times the changes come suddenly, with a retirement, promotion or reorganization affecting how you do your work.

We've all been there. Your job duties change, and you're thrust into a corner of the Fiscal Management (FM) universe you know nothing about. But you're in luck — FM training is here to help!

Of course, bewilderment isn't a prerequisite for training. You just have to be willing to learn. Trainers are on the job developing classes and other training options for agency and university personnel. You can learn something completely new, broaden an existing knowledge base or get a refresher on an already mastered topic.

So you have an idea of what you want to learn. Now you need to choose how you want your training. FM provides several options — regular and specialized training classes, Web-based training and online video tutorials. It's time to pick your training method and start learning.

Learning by doing

FM offers a regular slate of classes focused on giving all state employees an understanding of FM policies and procedures. But it's not all about drilling the exact same information into people's heads class after class. Laws, rules and policies change, so trainers adapt and incorporate the newest information into their classroom training.

FM trainers strive to meet each student's learning needs by taking time to answer questions. Trainers want and anticipate questions. "It's an indicator that the class is going well," FM trainer Steve Tamez says. "They haven't quit listening."

Trainers also encourage students to share how FM policies and procedures are implemented at their agencies. Sometimes, the most useful piece of information comes from another student. "We encourage students to interact with each other," Tamez says. "You may hear someone else talk about a situation that you've dealt with, and you can help that person."

While the goal is to disseminate information, the key is to have fun in the process. Forget the image of your high school chemistry teacher writing incomprehensible formulas on the chalkboard while droning on about the properties of exothermic reactions. FM training is far from this. Real-life examples and competitive games inject excitement into subjects that could be dry and boring in the hands of lesser instructors.

In the midst of all the action, trainers reinforce the course material to help students retain what they have learned.

"I really liked having so many training exercises in class," wrote an anonymous Uniform Statewide Accounting System (USAS) Core Lab student on a course evaluation. "They helped me to retain what was presented and how to effectively use it rather than just listening to a lecture."

Registering for classroom training is easy. Through Training Center, students can manage every aspect of their FM training.

Have training – will travel

Training Center is also the place to request specialized training. Trainers can develop a customized class to fit an agency's training needs and deliver it on-site. Specialized training is based on trainer availability.

Generally, agencies request topics covered in regular training classes, but any FM topic is fair game. Human Resource Information System (HRIS), USAS, appropriation management and travel policy are commonly requested topics. Based on what an agency requests and what the trainers recommend, trainers can develop class materials to address the agency's training needs.

What's the fee for having FM experts deliver the specific training you desire at the time and location of your choosing? It's the same as all other FM training — it's free. The only cost to agencies for specialized training is reimbursement of the trainers' travel expenses if the location is outside of Austin.

Specialized training is a great method for giving a group of employees the same training experience. As in classroom training, student-to-student interactions can be as valuable as what the trainers bring to the table. FM trainers cannot provide the Comptroller's seal of approval for your agency's internal policies, but FM training often sparks worthwhile conversations about the ways an agency does business.

FM trainer Eva Jordan encourages students in her specialized HRIS training classes to address university-specific issues. "It's their training, and I want them to get out of it whatever they need to get out of it," Jordan says.

Specialized training is particularly advantageous to agencies and universities located outside Austin. Bringing in a trainer or two has a much more attractive price tag than sending everyone to Austin for a day.

Fasten your earbuds!

Maybe you can't make it to Austin. Maybe you just need an introduction to a topic. Perhaps your budget is too tight to squeeze in a special appearance for FM trainers. Well, you have other options for learning right at your fingertips.

Web-based training modules are available. Text and graphics work together to explain topics such as Texas Identification Number System Inquiry and FMQuery. These modules allow you to learn at your own pace. After completing the Web-based training, you have the option to log into the Training Center and take an exam for training credit.

The newest arrow in the FM training quiver is Camtasia. Camtasia enables trainers to capture anything on their computer screens and add voice narration to it. Using this software, trainers write and produce short video tutorials shedding light on specific topics.

All the videos produced to date are under 30 minutes, and many are under 15. The videos are the quickest way to acquire an understanding of FM topics. Training credit is not available at this time, but when more videos are available, we will look for ways to group similar videos and provide training credit for the group.

The largest undertaking in Camtasia has been the tutorial on 1099 reporting in USAS. The narrator explains how to extract 1099 data from USAS while it happens on your computer screen. Ladies and gentlemen, fasten your earbuds!

Bon appétit!

FM's menu of training options exists to keep you informed. You can snack on Web-based training modules and online training videos, order the classroom training daily special or dine a la carte with specialized training. There's something to tempt the state accounting professional with even the most finicky taste in training. Better yet, FM training is sure to satisfy.

Glenn Hegar
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
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