Francophone Affairs Secretariat
Government of Manitoba
On September 25, 2012, Manitoba's Francophone Affairs Secretariat—in collaboration with Organization and Staff Development (OSD) and the Canada School of Public Service (CSPS)—launched the first in a series of professional development activities in French for Province of Manitoba employees.
The pilot project, entitled DVD français (déjeuner, vidéo, discussion) [French DVDs (breakfast, video, discussion)], was developed through a cooperation agreement between Manitoba and the CSPS. The aim of the agreement is to provide a wide range of learning activities that enable federal and provincial employees to acquire the competencies required to meet the challenges and exploit the opportunities facing both governments now and in the future. As part of the overarching agreement, the CSPS made its French-language DVD "armchair presentations" available to the province, and three of these films were chosen as the basis for the pilot project.
The learning objectives behind this new initiative are to promote and encourage bilingualism. The provincial government has a number of designated bilingual positions, mainly in front-line roles, to facilitate the delivery of services in French in accordance with the Government of Manitoba's French Language Services Policy. However, there are also a significant number of bilingual staff in non-designated positions, at all levels and in various roles. Therefore, the Secretariat has been working with the Manitoba Civil Service Commission to find ways to build on this largely untapped bilingual capacity.
The provision of training possibilities—both French language training and professional development training—has been highlighted as a prime motivator for encouraging employees to declare their ability and willingness to work in French as required. The DVD français project was created, then, as a way to bring bilingual staff together in a relatively informal setting to improve their listening skills and to develop their level of comfort in speaking in French on work-related topics.
Employees are invited to join Secretariat staff for breakfast (coffee and croissants) and the chance to further their knowledge of general workplace issues, all while practising their French comprehension and communication skills. The Secretariat wants the project (which is more than a standard language class) to have a twofold emphasis: building confidence, and providing professional development in French.
Thirty bilingual employees with an intermediate or advanced level of French competence registered for the first session, which was centred on a DVD presentation on organizational change management (Bottom-Up Change: It Starts With an Individual). The meeting was facilitated by two Secretariat staff members, and all participants contributed to the informal discussion of issues raised in the film. The evaluation was extremely positive, with all participants expressing their pleasure at "finally" having the opportunity to learn, converse and network in French with other bilingual employees from across the provincial government.
Two more presentations are planned as part of the pilot project: a session on how working styles and attitudes are shaped according to which generation employees belong to (Les générations), and an overview of the history and influence of the French language around the world (La grande aventure de la langue française).
The hope is that OSD and the Manitoba Civil Service Commission will decide that the pilot project should be integrated into the regular calendar of professional development activities for Manitoba's civil servants and that, as of April 2013, it will become a permanent course. The fact that the spaces available for the first three sessions were filled within a couple of days of posting suggests that there is definitely a demand for such activities among the province's bilingual employees.