TCWeek
2021 Trainer of the Year – Jana Oliver

2021 Trainer of the Year – Jana Oliver

During the training process, Jana starts out each trainer/trainee relationship with covering expectations of herself, the trainee, and the center itself. This conversation is key to not only a healthy training relationship, but also building a resilient and healthy Kitsap 911 employee. She seeks out what the trainee’s learning preference is before the training even begins, how to best manage and flex to the learning needs of that trainee, and then documents those key pieces of information in a daily evaluation report for future review. This sets the stage right out of the gate for a positive learning environment. She and the trainee collectively set goals for what the plan will be for each day of training, for that week, and what the end goal looks like. This means the trainee always knows what the learning objectives are, where the training will progress with hard work, and how to achieve success with our agency.

When Jana is not assigned a trainee, which is hardly ever now, she continues with her normal responsibilities as an Assistant Supervisor managing and evaluating performance of her entire shift. In our center, the Assistant Supervisor runs the daily dispatch floor operations, ensuring every employee is answering 911 lines, dispatching events timely, the best customer service is being provided to the public, member agencies, and co-workers, and that our employees feel encouraged and supported. In this tumultuous time of understaffing and heavy overtime needs, Jana is responsible for uplifting her crew and creating and helping to maintain a culture people want to keep putting in the long hours to be part of.

One of Jana’s primary roles is to manage and facilitate our scheduling program. She is responsible for building quarterly schedules, assigning overtime, ensuring vacation shifts and comp time requests are accurately noted on the schedule, and that all staff vacancies have been filled by existing employees. Our center is no different than any other right now in the fact that we are understaffed and trying to figure out how to cover shortages while not burning out employees and keeping a positive mindset. Jana has had to get very creative in making recommendations to the Assistant Director of Operations and the Deputy Director on how we might be able to accomplish this.

An example of her participating in resolving an operational issue and managing the operations of our comm center is regarding filling overtime. The Supervisors had been continually filling overtime just about every day, a task which has taken several hours on occasion to get done and get done accurately. Jana came up with a way to change how mandatory overtime was assigned, which in turn saved many man hours for the Supervisor filling the shifts and left less room for error. Seriously I know you can all picture what it is like to mandate the wrong employee and the grief that comes with that! Additionally, you can picture what a relief it has been for our supervisors to not spend so much time figuring out overtime or how a mandating error occurred, time which they can now work on other tasks needing to be addressed. Jana’s creativity was a huge success and made life easier all the way around for the center. Yay Jana!

Another example of how she assists with managing the center is shifting schedules around to accommodate training. We have had many of our Trainers go out on medical leave, leave employment, or decide training wasn’t for them within the last year. Naturally, we still must hire to fill vacancies and that means we must have trainers to get those folks certified. Jana was instrumental in figuring out which trainers were still available and how to shift trainees around with the least amount of movement as to not disrupt the trainees’ learning process and still get the training completed. She worked together with the Training Supervisor to find the best way to fill in the trainer vacancies, which also meant potentially adjusting how the training occurred to begin with.

Jana is always quick with several different solutions to these types of potential scenarios that occur, even with last-minute notice. She is detailed with the pros and cons of each of the solutions she presents, which in turn makes it easier for our leadership to decide a best plan of action for scheduling and operational needs and adjustments.

If you could use your computer and create the perfect trainer, much like the great 80’s movie “Weird Science,” (without the headgear and the odd kids of course) you would end up with Jana Oliver. In a time when Telecommunicators are tired and maybe not in the best of moods based on all the nations woes, trying to recover from a continued pandemic, and the perpetual understaffing issues every center is facing, Jana comes walking out on to the dispatch floor with a smile on her face. She just seems to have this natural ability to not let things get to her. EVERY center needs this type of leader’s demeanor setting the stage for the day and balancing the atmosphere of the shift.

Jana has an uncanny ability to be direct with her coaching, however not in an overly assertive manner. She is quick to point out a better path of handling certain calls or dispatches for her trainees while still maintaining a positive and encouraging approach. For example, she had a trainee during the 2021 year who really understood the job but struggled with typing. The trainee had the knowledge and problem solving down to perform the duties of the job, however, could not type quick enough nor type while talking to keep up with the demands of a busy call center. Rather than give up on that person or recommend they discontinue training, Jana researched typing programs that would allow the trainee to practice while at work. She found some programs that were game-like to encourage fun while learning and reached out to the Training Supervisor to see if there were programs available that included audio to build the trainee’s skill set for typing while listening simultaneously.

Another example of her flexibility in training was when we hired a class of dispatch first trainees during the 2021 year. One of the students identified to move on to dispatching before call taking, was demonstrating deficiencies in the area of application and problem solving while radio training. Rather than throw in the towel, Jana came up with a plan to switch the trainee to call taking training, and, offered to keep training this same person so the trainee had less movement and less stress than was necessary. He was already familiar with her coaching style, stayed on the same shift, and Jana still managed to get him to sign-off of call taking. This was a win for not only her, but the trainee and the organization as well to maintain a valuable employee who just needed a little extra time to be successful.

To reiterate the question regarding Jana being instrumental in our communication’s center operations and complex issues, she is quite creative with our scheduling to work smarter and not harder. She is efficient with creating solutions to scheduling conflicts and shortages, getting overtime covered, assisting the Supervisors with workload, and still, on top of all her normal duties as an Assistant Supervisor, training new hires and documenting daily performance. Oh, and if she isn’t already awesome enough for you to see she deserves this award, she worked over 400 hours of overtime last year to fill staffing shortages. She maintained a positive “can-do” attitude through all of this, the pandemic, the extra back-to-back training, and still offered up solutions to keep the operations floor running as smoothly as it could.

Lastly, if you can say lastly because there really is not enough space and time to note all the extra duties and small tasks Jana does under the radar, the training supervisor was new to the role during this 2021 year. There was a bit of a learning curve for scheduling trainer-trainee assignments, when to submit these assignments for schedule building, how to recognize when one trainer used might be more beneficial to another for scheduling purposes, etc. Jana spent several hours and a random shift or five working with the Training Supervisor to get her up to speed on the inner workings of how the schedule works pertaining to the training program. Her training was easily understood, and she had no problem covering some of the information more than once until it really soaked in for the new Training Supervisor. She took on a heavier load with scheduling in this area in order to help with the workload of the new Training Supervisor. Not only is she educating our new hires, but she also helps with educating even the most tenured employees if it’s an area in which she excels and can pass along her knowledge. Rather than hoard the information, she shares and develops others. 

Jana Oliver needs to be selected as the APCO Trainer of the Year for several reasons. While I have no doubt there are many overworked and tired trainers out there over this last couple of years, and most are identifiable great in their own way and deserving of this award, I would challenge other centers to match Jana’s abilities and character as a trainer.  She is positive, influences new hires in a healthy way to keep trying, encourages them to never to give up, and when you think it’s not going to work, Jana finds a solution to say, “yes it can!” While balancing her workload as a trainer, keeping up to date on her daily evaluations, she still gets her job responsibilities as an Assistant Supervisor completed on-time and without errors. She finds ways to help tenured employees build their skills in some areas of weakness, which in turn just makes our center that much stronger. Not only is she training new people to our industry, but she’s also training some of us old ones too! She proves that you can teach old dogs new tricks! She creates solutions versus focusing on problems and recommends those to management to be more efficient in our center operations. She is a very well-rounded and skillful employee. Is this not the type of trainer every center hopes to have? I highly encourage you to select Jana Oliver as the APCO-NENA Trainer of the Year!

Jana has been with Kitsap 911 since May of 2014, 8 years, and has no prior public safety experience.

Kitsap 911 (CENCOM) is the primary PSAP for Kitsap County. We are a consolidated center and handle approximately 350,000 calls for service annually between Law Enforcement, Fire, and EMS events. We serve as the sole provider of dispatch services for seven Law Enforcement Agencies, six Fire Departments who run Fire & EMS services, and we dispatch for the Port Gamble Natural Resources Department and Kitsap Animal Control. In addition, we collaborate with the Department of Emergency Management who shares a portion of our facility.

We provide mutual aid services to Washington State Patrol, Jefferson, Mason, and Pierce Counties, as well as three military installations (Naval Base Kitsap Bangor, Naval Base Kitsap Bremerton, and Naval Base Kitsap Keyport.)

Our communications center is home to approximately 88 employees; this includes our Telecommunicators, Information Services Technicians, Radio Technicians, and Administrative Personnel.

At any given time, there are 2-3 Primary Call Receivers on shift, 3-4 Law Enforcement Dispatchers, 2-3 Fire & EMS Dispatchers, an Assistant Supervisor, and a Shift Supervisor working the dispatch floor. Additionally, we can have anywhere between 3-9 telecommunicator trainees on the floor learning how to become active and fully certified members of our industry.

Typically, our Kitsap 911 trainers fill a Supervisory role with trainees while training. Jana is already an Assistant Supervisor in her normal role, and due to our center being understaffed like many others, she has additionally now been tasked with filling in as a Senior CTO and training new hires as well. Jana is responsible for training and evaluating trainee performance on the material she is covering as well as capturing her trainee’s interpersonal conduct, dependability, accountability, and initiative performance.

It is her responsibility to get the trainee to a Meets Standards performance level where the trainee can function on their own during normal operations. She takes advantage of downtime by verbally quizzing the trainee, working on deficient performance, role-playing scenarios, and working through our in-house floor modules to enhance the trainee’s skills and knowledge in some of the key core competencies of call taking or dispatching, whichever discipline she is training at the time. She is accountable to counseling the trainee in their performance and then accurately capturing that performance, both corrective and positive, in a daily evaluation report. She coaches trainees on policies and industry “best practices,” while fostering a positive learning environment for the trainee to develop their skill set. At the end of her training session with a trainee, it is her responsibility to recommend to the Training Supervisor whether the trainee should continue with training, discontinue training based on deficient performance, or have their training extended if the performance is close to certification but just needs a little more time.