Eh to Zed

By Janice Plomp and Joanne McKenzie

After attending an information session introducing the NCRA A to Z® Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program at the Las Vegas NCRA Convention & Expo in 2017, we knew it was the perfect tool to ensure we were getting the “right” students into our program. The Captioning and Court Reporting program at the Northern Institute of Technology in Edmonton, Alberta, is about to celebrate its 60th anniversary and has a reputation across North America for being an excellent program with an above-average graduation rate. However, as a publicly funded school, we are always looking for ways to increase our key performance indicators.

In September 2017, we welcomed 26 eager participants to our first NCRA A to Z program. We emphasized to all that it was a “try it before you buy it” opportunity. Our expectations were low as we headed into this unknown territory, but 20 of them completed the program, and many asked if they could do it again, and they did!

NCRA A to Z does everything we hoped it would do: Attract potential applicants, teach the basics of machine shorthand, help participants make informed decisions about their future, and increase awareness about the profession. But that’s not the whole story. Our Canadian court reporting community rallied behind us. Local reporters and captioners volunteered their time to lead a session and share their experience and their enthusiasm for this great profession. As we expanded our program to include synchronous online participants in 2018, others were quick to dust off their old machines and deliver them to out-of-town and out-of-province participants and offer their time as mentors. Our provincial association, the Alberta Shorthand Reporters Association, sponsors snacks each week for the on-site participants.

NCRA President Max Curry, left, with NAIT students. Those who completed the NCRA A to Z are shown raising their hands.

More importantly, our NCRA A to Z participants benefited as well. A sense of community developed between the participants over the six weeks, and those who were accepted into the program had a head start with steno as well as new friendships.

Our fifth NCRA A to Z session began October 28. We have 20 participants registered and a waiting list for our February session. We are increasing the number of sessions for 2020 by adding a third offering to ensure all applicants to our program have an opportunity to attend. Our marketing is primarily through NAIT’s annual Open House event, sharing the flyer through social media, and the NCRA A to Z registration.

It is too early to see any real changes in our graduation rate, but one thing we know for sure: We have a new and exciting way to encourage people to join our profession. Thank you, NCRA, for spearheading this initiative and increasing awareness about court reporting and captioning.

Janice Plomp, RDR, CRR, CRC, CRI, is a captioner and instructor based in St. Albert, Alberta, Canada, and Joanne McKenzie, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI, is a captioner, freelancer, and instructor from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Plomp can be reached at jplomp@shaw.ca. McKenzie can be reached at joannem@nait.ca.