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Continuous Education, on Campus and Online

University Business, October 2012
The Westphalia Training Center, a new Prince George's Community  College extension site, establishes construction industry partnerships to provide training in several trade areas.
The Westphalia Training Center, a new Prince George's Community College extension site, establishes construction industry partnerships to provide training in several trade areas.

Employers believe their employees must be committed to continuing education to remain on top of their industries and their jobs, according to research commissioned by Destiny Solutions in October 2011.

“The Voice of the Employer on the Effects and Opportunities of Professional Development,” based on a study of 200 employers across North America, reveals that  70 percent of employers feel their employees need continuous training just to keep up with their jobs. Ninety-five percent of employers financially support employee continuing education.

Yet, only 9 percent of employers have actually partnered with a college or university to provide employee training and development, the study found. “A majority of employers took issue with the availability of college-level programs tailored to their needs and nearly eight of out 10 said that educational partnerships between employers and higher education institutions are limited in availability,” stated the report.

Community colleges that are successfully capitalizing on the workforce development market are making the training as convenient as possible for employers and employees by offering it at multiple locations and online.

At Prince George’s Community College (Md.), more than half of the 40,000 students are enrolled in workforce development programs to earn certificates or complete degrees, says Yvette Snowden, dean of workforce development and community partnerships.

Workforce development fits the community college’s mission to “create programs that respond to the needs of the businesses in the communities where they operate,” Snowden says, adding that,“what’s important is the number of people that we touch.”

Total enrollment at PGCC has increased by about 25 percent in the past five years and providing convenient, flexible locations for workforce development training is more critical than ever, since employers may not have the space to provide it on site. PGCC has five extension sites around the county, including the Westphalia Training Center, which offers several training spaces for skilled trades. Over the past year alone, PGCC has partnered with 30 businesses and non-profits in the county, Snowden says.

At one end of the spectrum, short courses are offered to meet a specific need for a license of certification, while at the other end, employees may have the opportunity to parlay stacked coursework into a two- or four-year degree, explains Snowden.

Course work that can be completed online provides flexible training that is also cost-efficient.

Julie Parks, director of workforce training at Grand Rapids Community College (Mich.)., is working with Pearson Education Inc. to create online curricula that teach problem-solving skills and theory to manufacturing workers. Training is conducted online as well as at on-campus labs at GRCC. “It’s a way to have people with expertise share it with the college,” she says.

Although Pearson training is conducted both online and in person, web-based learning is particularly convenient for companies that have multiple plants around the country or even around the world, Parks points out.

In addition, working with Pearson makes financial sense for GRCC, which is experiencing a hiring freeze and budget reductions, explains Parks, because the partnership saves money and makes GRCC more efficient and flexible.