Joy W. Hunter
Dean and Chief Learning Officer
Department of Veterans Affairs Learning University
As Dean of the Department of Veterans Affairs Learning University (VALU), Joy W. Hunter is responsible for the training and career path development of more than 220,000 employees at 1,300 locations. Today, the department is experiencing unusual challenges resulting from an aging workforce, wherein 55 percent of senior executives and 21 percent of the entire workforce are eligible for retirement. In such a situation, where the department risks dramatic losses in the numbers of skilled employees at the various branches, education is crucial.
To deal with this challenge, VA Learning Online (VALO) offers a catalog of more than 2,000 professional development courses, many of which are customized to meet the changing needs of the VA department. These classes are accessible 24 hours per day, seven days per week. With the availability of televisions, touch-pads and desktop video, employees enjoy a wide variety of learning formats. The VA has fully automated its tracking and management of employee developmental achievement, ensuring that each class runs smoothly, from registration to completion. Overall, VA employees are training more—and they’re doing it more efficiently because they know what classes they need and they can complete the coursework whenever they have free time. Since the students can select their own courses, they are more likely to progress in their development. But a better learning experience isn’t the end of the matter: Travel expenses have dropped significantly since the new program began.
As a result of the reformed program, the Department of Veterans Affairs has helped itself to attract and retain recruits while providing better service to the nation’s veterans. The central office and field units are now working together to determine which of the existing training programs are the most effective so that the system can continue to improve. From the perspective of the individual or the organization, employee development is proving to be more exciting and valuable than ever before at the VA. Thanks in large part to Hunter, the department has made significant progress in developing its executives of tomorrow.