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Setting Up for Success: Sharing Lessons Learned for Creating Sustainable Training Teams


Benchmarks’ Partnering for Excellence (PFE) is a test of change project that aims to provide Department of Social Services (DSS) agencies with a trauma-informed pathway to screen for and address trauma for child welfare-involved youth. To do this, the project focuses on cultivating a more trauma-informed community through education and trainings. In 2019, Benchmarks’ PFE began implementation in Pitt and Craven counties. Just a few years, the project shifted from the implementation phase into sustainability planning; transferring project responsibilities from Benchmarks’ implementation staff to the local child welfare agencies. This shift requires Benchmarks to develop and employ methods that encourage effective skill transfer.

Throughout the implementation stage of the project, Benchmarks introduces and trains the National Childhood Traumatic Stress Networks (NCTSN) Trauma 101 training with the help of project partners. The training focuses on educating professionals in child-serving systems on trauma, how it affects those we serve, potential personal impacts, and ways agencies can adopt more trauma-informed practices.

During the sustainability phase, Benchmarks works to shift responsibility for trainings to be locally managed. We do this by working with our leadership teams to develop Lead Trauma Trainers within our partnering DSS agencies. The goal is to aid trainers in becoming Trauma Champions who not only ensure that the trainings remain impactful but also are continuing to inform change towards more trauma-informed practices within their agency and community.

This month, our Lead Trauma Trainers from Pitt, and Craven County DSS will meet with Benchmarks’ staff to take part in a skills transfer workshop aimed at preparing them for their roles as Trauma Champions for the agency. The first half of the workshop will incorporate Benchmarks’ Train-the-Trainer curriculum which we use to onboard new trainers in the community.

Areas of focus include:

  • Trainer time commitment information: This provides agencies with the information to make sure they are selecting the right individuals to participate. This can be especially helpful in the sustainability phase because developing new trainers takes time and resources. The more upfront we are about the time commitment, the less likely we are to have trainers drop out because they are over-extended or realize training is not a "good fit" for their role
  • Competency evaluations: This helps to ensure trainers have a good foundational understanding of trauma. We realize that for trainers to feel confident in their ability to conduct a training, they must feel comfortable with the curriculum. The evaluations are used to see where they are in their understanding of the various trauma concepts and assess for any knowledge gaps that may exist. This allows lead facilitators to collaborate with new trainers on any deficits in knowledge prior to trainings with larger groups
  • Adult Learning Principles training: While it is essential for trainers to understand the curriculum, it is just as important that trainers have facilitation skills, as well. This training helps the training team ensure all trainers understand the many ways in which adults learn and the best ways to facilitate successful trainings.
  • Feedback: Our team has developed tools and resources that are shared with DSS agency partners to help them give feedback to new trainers in the training process. During the workshop we review how to use these tools to encourage growth and engagement among new trainers. Feedback is an important part of developing trainers and gives concrete strategies to improve in specific areas, as needed.

Our skills transfer workshop allows our Lead Trauma Trainers to practice the various components involved in hosting a Trauma 101 training. This includes role-playing, navigating room and technology set up, supplying visuals, and facilitation activities. In addition, the workshop helps our partners think through how to incorporate these components once they begin to onboard new trainers on their own.

Other considerations discussed during the workshop include:

  • Planning: What materials and supplies need to be ordered in advance and prepared before training day? Do you have a protocol for onboarding and supporting new trainers?
  • Training Space: Where will the training be held and who will secure the site? Are tables arranged in a way that allows for group interaction? Are you familiar with how to set up and use the available technology?
  • Virtual Training Considerations: What should be considered when a training is hosted virtually rather than in-person? Do certain things need to be changed or require more prep time if the training is offered virtually?
  • Engaging Participants: Are you familiar enough with the material that you can present it in a way that is engaging and meaningful? Do you know how to challenge limited belief systems and encourage growth mindsets?
  • Outreach: How will you get the word out about your training? If you need to grow your training group, how will you engage and onboard new trainers from the community? How will the agency keep up with listservs to make sure community contacts are up to date?

Developing a skills transfer process can be just as intensive as developing a training. We want those taking on the responsibilities of training to feel supported, prepared, and confident which requires a well-planned and thoughtful skills transfer agenda. This includes spending time up front to identify what skills need to be transferred and the ability to break down what tasks and information need to be imparted with each skill. From there, we can develop a process that allows for successful knowledge transfer to a new set of trainers.

We look forward to our new Lead Trauma Trainers building on and championing continued success and we thank them for their dedication to creating a more trauma-informed community, one training at a time!

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