City examines growth, feedback of Sterling U training

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published August 29, 2019


STERLING HEIGHTS — The end of summer means it’s back-to-school time for metro Detroit’s youth. But it also marked a time for the city of Sterling Heights to assess its human resources training programs for its own workers.

During an Aug. 20 Sterling Heights City Council meeting, City Manager Mark Vanderpool praised the latest developments of the Sterling University program, also known as Sterling U. He called the program significant, cutting-edge and a way to implement staff best practices.

“It’s a very unique program,” he said. “It’s something that Sterling Heights itself created and branded on our own. It’s something that I know our mayor had the chance to highlight on the national scale before the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and it certainly received some attention there.”

During the meeting, Sterling Heights Human Resources and Benefits Manager Kate Baldwin gave a presentation explaining Sterling U in more detail. She said it took off last year and introduced some additional options this year.

“One of the primary goals of human resources and city administration is to provide our employees the tools and resources that they need to provide the best services to our residents and businesses while also providing optimal customer service,” Baldwin said.

“Over the last two years, we have implemented new training initiatives that promise to revitalize and improve employee performance.”

A core component of Sterling U has allowed employees from various departments to tour the other city departments to get a feel for what goes on. So far, an estimated 176 participants have toured and visited the Department of Public Works, the Police Department, the Fire Department, City Hall and more, she explained.

“Sterling U allows employees to have a good, in-depth understanding of each of our critical functions and how they operate, and how each department interacts with one another,” she said.

Baldwin said that while employees have submitted good reviews overall without solicitation, some people want it to be a half-day session instead of a full day. They also want the program to be more interactive and hands-on, with less time in a classroom setting, she added.

“We are looking into implementing a condensed version for residents in the future,” she added.

In terms of employees’ own training, Baldwin said that so far, 427 employees have requested or taken advantage of a one-day paid sabbatical. She said some workers are using their sabbaticals to complete online training courses on a KnowledgeCity website, which has more than 13,000 available videos.

Baldwin added that the sabbatical option costs the city about $115 per employee, which is less than earlier budget projections of $150.

Meanwhile, around 40 city workers are expected to undergo Lean Six Sigma training, a system where participants are trained to improve efficiency and customer service. Participants who complete the program’s white belt and green belt stages can get accreditation, she said. Macomb Community College is collaborating with the city on the program.

Through a separate program, five unnamed city leaders will be able to go to executive leadership training at destinations including the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, Baldwin said.

Baldwin said the umbrella of Sterling U human resources programs still has room to grow, as officials plan to later introduce a customer-centric program called The Disney Way. She said the city believes that its training options will have a positive impact on residents and businesses.

“We look at this as though the doors are still open for other training opportunities,” she said. “We want to keep the momentum going and allow employees to grow professionally.”

Find out more about Sterling Heights by visiting or by calling (586) 446-2489.