Community colleges far and wide have entered into partnerships with local businesses to provide critical training for their employees. These partnerships give businesses work-ready employees, provide colleges with a steady stream of income and offer communities better economic outlooks.
Here’s another benefit: These corporate training programs give colleges a wealth of knowledge — and equipment — they can also use to educate the general student population. That’s exactly what Salt Lake Community College (SLCC) is doing while providing training to more than 130 companies per year.
We chatted with Karen Gunn, SLCC’s associate provost of economic development and business partnerships, to find out how the college has built its robust corporate training program and how it’s maximizing the resources gained from the program.
How do you find companies that need training for their employees?
I sit on Utah’s workforce commission board. Companies will often talk about both the infrastructure and training they need in order to stay competitive. We can then design a training program for them in 90 days or less.
Why is it easier to start corporate training certificates and academic programs than noncorporate ones?
We don’t have the same obstacles as we do when trying to get an academic program approved; degree programs can take a year or more to start. We often can get corporate training started in three weeks, with a 90-day maximum. We can also customize the program for exactly what’s needed. In the meantime, we’re building equipment reserves that can be used for academic programs that already exist or can get approved in the longer term.
What is the process of developing the curriculum for a corporate program?
We start with a meeting with the company to discuss exactly what training is needed and the time frame involved. We then have a training manager within the company study work processes and profile the job that needs to be done. Then we find subject matter experts through our own network, within the company itself and through professional organizations. We hire subject matter experts to consult on developing the curriculum. An instructor is chosen and meets with the company for final approval. Finally, a site is chosen, on-site or on campus, and teaching begins.
Does the company pay for all of the equipment?
No. We’re lucky because the state of Utah gave us a grant to pay for up to half of corporate training costs. However, we also use Perkins grants and other funding sources. Companies will come back year after year, so we offer a smaller percentage of the funding [to those repeat companies]. But the program gets cheaper for us and them gradually, because of equipment already in use. We still make a profit for the college and train over 130 companies per year.
How are these corporate training programs benefiting more than just the businesses and their employees?
We’re learning what skills industry needs now and in the future. For instance, we learned about education software languages when developing a program for Instructure, an education software company. In another industry, we’ve improved our academic programs that focus on building medical and other carbon-fiber-based products with equipment donated for training employees to build airplane wings. Every expensive molding machine in our lab was donated by companies. They were used as showroom-floor samples and couldn’t be resold but are perfect for us.
What has been your biggest lesson learned so far?
Sometimes the subject matter expert isn’t the best trainer, or an academic instructor doesn’t speak the industry language. Occasionally, we have to utilize both [an expert and an instructor] in order to get the best result for the corporation. We now have introductory meetings with the client so we can make sure it’s a good training match.
How does corporate training benefit your college and its students? Tell us in the Comments.