Douglas County Tries Virtual Training For Jail Staff To Attract Applicants
Could a unique but modern method help staffing issues at the Douglas County jail? That's the hope with a shift in how the facility provided the mandated training for staff members.
As part of the certification process for the jail facility, staff members must submit to "24 hours of specialized training each fiscal year", according to an article in the Superior Telegram [paywall]. That's three full work days of time that has the potential to be saved.
And that saved time is important, because it sounds like jail staff have often had to come in on their days off or attend the in-person sessions at times that activated overtime pay. Essentially, the savings would also apply to county budgets in regards to that overtime pay and PTO.
In the past, county officials would schedule the necessary training by bringing in an in-person host or vendor. Because the sessions were in-person and on specific dates and times, it would require all of the staff that needed to receive the training to be at work - regardless of what their usual schedules might be.
Using a virtual method, county jail officials would still utilize some in-person training - when it made sense or when it needed to be in that form. However, using virtual sessions when they could would allow for more flexibility. Douglas County Jail Lieutenant Stacey Minter explains:
"During our down time, we could have officers doing this online training at work so they're not having to come in on their precious time off now and we're not paying out the overtime for them to come in and do that."
Virtual training sessions could also realize other cost savings for the county in the form of bulk purchases and other discounts for existing customers. It could also help them attract applicants for the open positions that jail staff have been trying to fill.
One other benefit to the virtual training sessions: The increased amount of subject material that would become available for the jail staff to access. Minter said that the virtual vendors have "...about 600-plus courses for us to take, which is incredible for us in corrections".
As far as funding goes, that's still up in the air. At a meeting in late April, the Public Safety Committee voted down a request to "increase the jail's training budget by $3,000 to pay for the training", but officials haven't given up yet; they're suggesting that that dollar amount is a small price to pay for the benefits it would provide.
Along those lines, Douglas County Finance Department member Tracy Rupp offered that "the expense would fall under contractual services in the jail budget, which is currently under budget....[and that] a budget amendment could be made at the end of the year to cover the cost" if there were over-runs.
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