workforce development

A Workforce Development Program to Replicate?

By Sonya Stinson

A partnership between a college and a local Citi call center benefits students and the company.

Since Gateway Community and Technical College and the local Citi call center, in Florence, Kentucky, embarked on a workforce-development partnership more than 10 years ago, more than 2,600 employees of the financial-services company have started or completed college credentials.

More than 1,800 have taken college-credit courses at Gateway, and another 800 have taken customized training with Gateway faculty members, says Carissa Schutzman, vice president of Gateway’s Corporate College.

Corporate College is the new moniker, chosen last year, for the office in charge of the Gateway/Citi collaboration formerly known as Workforce Solutions. Angie Taylor, former vice president of Workforce Solutions, spearheaded the program. Schutzman took over in July 2015 after being part of the Workforce Solutions team for several years. She notes that Ed Hughes, past president and CEO at Gateway, and Greg Morton, then Citi site manager, were also instrumental in getting the program started.

Taylor and Hughes began meeting with officials at Citi soon after Gateway was founded, in 2001. Morton, whose mantra was “education is a business strategy,” was especially keen on finding a way to encourage and support the continuing education of Citi employees.

“He wanted to create internal pathways for employees to aspire to go to college, to get a promotion or a raise. He also saw that this could be a retention strategy,” Schutzman says.

Students find success

The starting point for most participants in the program is Gateway’s career-assessment service, called Career Discovery. From 2002 until 2014, more than 1,000 Citi employees have gone through Career Discovery, which focuses on helping participants identify both their strongest skill sets and the areas that need improvement, Schutzman says. Of that number, more than 300 have earned promotions of at least one job-grade level after taking courses or training at Gateway.

Forty-three employees have completed the certificate for operations management through a 16-hour course taught on site at Citi. Eighteen employees completed the sales certificate during the spring 2015 semester. Besides the certificate programs, the partnership also provides Citi employees access to communications courses and customized training in customer service, leadership and team-building.

There is a Gateway Center at the Citi facility, where Heather Morgan, an on-site academic adviser, is available for 10 to 20 hours a week. While Gateway has other partnerships to provide customized workforce-development services for area employees, no other arrangement involves the kind of intrusive advising the Citi workers receive, Schutzman says.

Why this workforce development partnership works

Schutzman thinks the Gateway/Citi partnership has lasted more than a decade because of the strong commitment of the leadership at both the college and the Florence Citi site, along with good communication. She says the program’s survival requires that everything from the overall vision for the program to the details of funding and implementation must be part of a seamless line of communication among all the stakeholders.

One of the most gratifying outcomes of the program, Schutzman says, is watching the students enjoy learning. Some who weren’t very good students at 18 now find themselves earning all A’s and loving going to class. They also are more focused about how they want to use their education to advance their careers.

Knowing their employer is willing to invest in their education and career advancement is another powerful motivator.

“When Citi put the Gateway Center inside their building, I think that sent a strong message to employees: We care about you as individuals, not just as employees, and we want you to progress,” Schutzman says.

Sonya Stinson

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.

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