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Petr Pokorný: CERPEK expansion is a challenge for me

Read the interview with the new CERPEK director of The Pedagogical Competence Development Centre (CERPEK) of Masaryk University.

Petr Pokorný, the director of the Pedagogical Competence Development Centre (CERPEK)

The Pedagogical Competence Development Centre (CERPEK) of Masaryk University is undergoing an important change. The existing offer of pedagogical competence development for university teachers will be substantially expanded to include the development and training of all university employees.

With CERPEK’s new mission comes a change at the top. Since 1 April, the centre has been headed by Petr Pokorný, who previously served for six years as director of the Personnel Management Office, a department of the MU Rector’s Office.

One of the main pillars of the MU Strategic Plan for 2021-2028 is personnel policy and staff development. “In order for Masaryk University to encompass the broader area of staff development and training and to reach the objectives of its Strategic Plan, CERPEK will now handle general competence development, not just pedagogical skills. With this change, MU makes a commitment to the development of all its employees, not only the academic staff. At the same time, it will no longer focus merely on the development of pedagogical competencies, but other skills, too – managerial, personal, organisational and digital,” explains Petr Pokorný in an interview with M Magazine. In the new position, he plans to leverage his many years of experience in HR.

So, what will CERPEK do now?
We will expand its activities and scope. Our work will no longer be just about teaching teachers how to teach better – that is, training academic staff in pedagogical skills – but our services will also be directed towards the development and training of other Masaryk University employees. The existing CERPEK team will continue in their work as before, but we will add activities that have, up to this point, been prepared and offered by the Personnel Management Office. Together they will further develop all existing activities – long-term programmes, workshops, seminars, mentoring and counselling. Close collaboration with the individual MU faculties and other units, as well as other departments of the MU Rector’s Office, will be essential. We will regularly ask the staff about their needs and offer tailored programmes and activities.

What will you build on in your role as the head of CERPEK?
The existing work of Jeffrey Vanderziel and his team, of course. I would like to thank Jeff and all my colleagues, professional staff and lecturers for all the successful work that has been done so far. The team will continue doing what they do. We will keep all the essentials on offer and continue to add new things. Each semester we will bring a variety of new activities. The Foundations of University Teaching Excellence programme is our flagship programme, offering a wide range of courses, workshops, consultations and mentoring. Similarly, we will build on the programmes and workshops that were developed under Andrea Drlá in the field of managerial and personal competencies. We are now complementing the already established and popular multi-day courses for beginner and advanced managers with the Talent Academy. In addition, we offer dozens of individual workshops and courses. Last year alone, over one thousand MU employees participated in the aforementioned programmes. CERPEK certainly has a good foundation to build on. My vision is to link pedagogical, managerial and personal competencies to ensure that every academic worker at the beginning of their career receives the necessary support in learning how to teach, lead people and get to know and develop themselves. It is similar in respect of non-academic staff, except for the teaching.

What are the most interesting parts you want to offer to each group of employees?
Our most important and largest target group are early career academics and leaders, not necessarily only in academic positions but also in other administrative positions. I would not describe what we want to offer them merely as ‘interesting’ – it really is rather ‘necessary’. We want to base our offer of services on people’s specific needs and to learn about those needs we need to work with staff feedback and evaluation. And this brings us back to well-functioning HR. Employee evaluation and development is one of the areas that has moved forward and improved during my tenure as director.

So in many areas, you are building on your work as an HR director?
Yes. Masaryk University has made great strides in personnel management and HR in recent years. The area has shifted away from a largely administrative role to actually supporting people’s development, becoming more strategic and growing in importance. Personnel managers are now involved in all the activities that make up modern HR practices. The decision by the university to pursue and win the HR Award – which was a result of a joint effort by all faculties and both university institutes – was a big help in this regard. Winning the HR Award has also made developing the area of staff training in management skills more important. And we are back at CERPEK again.

How does the information about what CERPEK does reach employees?
We have a website where people who are interested can find more information about our activities. But probably the most important is our cooperation with the individual faculties. We have coordinators from personnel and development managers at each faculty and they have a very important role in spreading the word about what CERPEK offers. The CERPEK Committee, which is made up of academic representatives from the faculties, is also quite active and has a significant influence on our activities. We also use the meetings with Jiří Hanuš, Vice-Rector for Personnel and Academic Affairs, and the secretary meetings led by the Bursar, Marta Valešová, to spread information around. Of course, we will also be very happy to cooperate with the MU Communication Division, because the channels they manage – the MU Portal for employees, the Newsletter and social media accounts – are all very important for us to raise awareness of our work.

What does the new CERPEK mean for you, personally?
Let me go back to HR. All strategic steps that my team and I have managed to implement over the past six years are now gradually being put into everyday practice. They are becoming business as usual. But what I find most fulfilling in my professional life are new responsibilities and challenges. The expansion of CERPEK is exactly that kind of a challenge for me.