By: 
Marcia Layton Turner
University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky
Honoree: 
University of Louisville

In 1998, shipping giant UPS considered moving its overnight air hub out of Louisville, Kentucky. In response, University of Louisville, Jefferson Community and Technical College, the city of Louisville and the state of Kentucky developed an innovative education initiative to keep UPS in town.

The program, named Metropolitan College, aims to help UPS improve workforce retention while eliminating a financial barrier to higher education for Kentucky residents, says Courtney Abboud, director of workforce and student development for Metropolitan College.

Students in Metropolitan College work approximately 15 hours per week at UPS and attend courses at the university or community college. Approximately 60 percent of Metropolitan’s 2,300 students are enrolled at the university and 40 percent attend the two-year school.

Into the future

  • Launching a pilot e-mentoring program in the fall of 2017 to help students find jobs in companies besides UPS. All communication between students and employers occurs via the internet.
  • Recently reached out to 70 area employers and found that all were interested in being paired with a Metropolitan College student. This professional network will provide students with feedback on résumés, online career portfolios and LinkedIn profiles.

If students commit to work through the semester at UPS, the company pays half of the tuition. The balance is covered through federal and state grants and a state tax credit to UPS.

So far, 4,698 students have earned associate, bachelor’s and graduate degrees through the program.

Metropolitan College also has built-in career guidance. The Career and Academic Planning Program requires students to complete a career assessment and meet with a counselor regularly.

After completing 30 credit hours, they create a résumé and set career goals. At 60 credit hours, students complete an online experiential learning module and the counselor helps them obtain related professional experience.

Then, at 90 credit hours, students participate in mock interviews geared toward their career aspirations.

“The goal of the program was not to create long-term UPS employees, but to provide a temporary workforce and then put credentialed employees back into the workforce” in other companies throughout Kentucky, says Abboud.

Metropolitan College has also been a win for UPS, which initially struggled with a workforce shortage. Before the college launched, the average tenure of an overnight worker was eight weeks. Today, it’s almost three years.