(Courtesy of The Daily Record)
WOOSTER — At local colleges, academics and work force training are intertwined — benefiting traditional and nontraditional students, as well as adults seeking additional training for jobs in which they are already employed or certification for careers they are pursuing.
The University of Akron Wayne College offers corporate training on site, “as well as other kinds of training for work force development,” interim Dean Paulette Popovich said. It may be individualized or customized.
“Many companies don’t realize there is funding (for those types of programs),” Popovich said, often in the form of grants.
Although the applicable grants have “dried up” in the recent past because of the tight economy, over the last 15 years Wayne College has received $1.2 million in training grants, said Amy Mast, the college’s director of continuing education and work force development.
Wayne College additionally serves as a testing site for “a whole array of things,” such as certification exams, Popovich said.
Mast said the college is authorized through companies to provide testing for about 2,000 certifications, from paramedics to information technology and insurance.
Companies also use the college’s services for testing employees being hired, Mast said. “Several companies work with us to select the appropriate tests.”
Skill training workshops are available for career training and professional development as well, Mast said, which may lead to industry certification.
Certification requirements may be fulfilled for students taking classes, particularly information technology classes, at Wayne College.
“We try to meet the needs of the community we serve,” Popovich said.
In collaboration with University of Akron’s main campus, Wayne College has “a lot greater reach … and depth” in the work force training services it can deliver, she said.
“Mainly, our office focuses on adults,” Mast said, but the various programs offered also may act as a “bridge” to academic credit through the college.
The approach at the Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute is also two-pronged, benefiting its students and area businesses.
“Each one of our technologies … has an advisory committee,” said Director Steve Nameth, populated not by academicians but “industry people” themselves.
Personnel from the industries represented in ATI’s programs come to campus periodically “so that we can show off what we’re doing,” Nameth said.
The question asked of them by the ATI administration is, “Are we teaching the right courses to prepare students to work in your industry?”
They also can alert ATI if equipment being used by students in their classes is outdated, Nameth pointed out. Corporations may even work with the school to replace it when necessary.
Internships are part of the partnerships ATI pursues with local companies, Nameth said, calling them “really an excellent relationship.”
“They’re everywhere,” he said, of students serving in internships throughout the area.
A representative from each of the committees also serves on a larger “key” committee, Nameth said, with which he meets in the spring and the fall.
In discussing enrollment and other pertinent topics, he said, “at least once a year something we incorporate here comes from meeting with that committee.”
The key advisory committee is beneficial to each side — assisting us “to be current with the industry,” Nameth said, and developing a skilled work force for area corporations.
One of the committee’s suggestions has been “the need to be better prepared in human resources management,” he said, as a means of developing leadership qualities in students.
“We have seen a real interest in (it),” said Kim Sayers, director of continuing education and work force development at ATI, in an email, highlighting “long-term leadership development programs as part of an organization’s succession planning.”
“Many organizations are looking to their high performers and high-potential employees as their managers and leaders for the future,” Sayers said. “We have been
working with a couple of organizations to develop customized leadership development programs for their next generation of leaders.”
ATI also has received calls for diversity and communications training and apprenticeship training, Sayers said.
In offering this kind of training, “we have some great resources within the university,” Sayers said.
“We don’t have direct interaction with the students here (at ATI),” she said.
However, “much of what we do comes out of the expertise of programs on campus,” although it is not limited to those programs.
Sayers said ATI recently won a Team NEO Economic Development Plus Award in Workforce Development for its Food Processing Training Consortium. Members of the consortium include Frito-Lay, Gerber’s Poultry Inc., J.M. Smucker Co., Sandridge Food Corp. and Smith Dairy.
While The College of Wooster is devoted to a liberal arts education, its students have a variety of arenas in which to interact with the work force in business and industry and be contributing members of it.
“College of Wooster students are actively engaged in opportunities outside of the classroom that not only provide valuable experience in business, industry, education, government, and the non-profit sector, but also yield noteworthy dividends for the organization, institution, or agency,” said John Finn, the college’s director of public information, in a statement.
An example is the Applied Mathematics and Research Experience program in which students work for such clients as Goodyear Tire and Rubber, Progressive Insurance, Smith Dairy and FirstEnergy, as well as Prentke Romich, Ohio Light Opera, Main Street Wooster and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center to solve real-life problems or come up with innovative programs.
“Likewise,” Finn said, “many students participate in a range of internships at local, regional, and national companies, including ABSMaterials in Wooster, which currently has six student interns from the College.”
“Other opportunities are offered by Wooster’s Center for Entrepreneurship, which identifies internships throughout northeast Ohio,” Finn said. “In addition, a number of students choose to become involved in civic ventures, such as those available through the Lilly Project for the Exploration of Vocation, where students can participate in medical and legal humanitarian projects among others in the United States and abroad.”
“In all cases, Wooster students come out better prepared to apply their interests and talents for the betterment of the community and society as a whole,” Finn said.