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Accessing Employee Training through your local College or University

Editor’s Note: This is a continuation of an interview published in December 2012.

Miner: Another way that you can provide employee training and not do it yourself is to take advantage of colleges, universities or community colleges that are in your local area. Many people don’t realize the wealth of information and the wealth of training opportunities that exist in their local colleges. They think of a college as a formal degree granting institution, but every college has a continuing education division which offers loads of professional development topics such as PowerPoint or supervisory skills.

I have a colleague that runs the Continuing Education division of a university near me. He’s making money hand over fist by teaching lean manufacturing techniques to local manufacturers. Small manufacturers in our area who need the training and don’t want to develop it themselves – don’t have the savvy, don’t have the time, don’t have the money to develop it themselves – but it would benefit their business to learn about lean manufacturing techniques. So he created this whole week long curriculum and his classes are always filled by individuals from the local manufacturing community.

That’s one of the benefits of using a local university. It’s not cost effective to develop training yourself if you only have one or two individuals who need a particular topic. You can buy customize training for an individual. If you have a Director of Operations that needs to learn about lean manufacturing techniques, you can send him to the university for that kind of training and not have to develop it yourself.

Local colleges are very cost effective – you can spend $79 for a short course or maybe $1000 for a week long course, which is much cheaper than you would ever be able to develop training yourself. And it’s right in your backyard so it really doesn’t disrupt your worker’s life.

In addition to the Continuing Ed division, almost every community college has a Business and Industry division, but it might be called something different in your local area. In our local area I know we refer to it as the Business and Industry division. That division is actually a consulting-type division that is tasked with providing training to the local community. They do offer courses very similar to what the Continuing Ed division might offer, but in addition they will send facilitators to you if you have critical mass. So if you have 12 people who need to learn Microsoft Office 2010 and you have enough people, they’ll send a facilitator to you. Not only do you not have to develop the training, you don’t even have to send your people off to the local college – they’ll send the instructor to you!

In addition, what’s really beneficial about the Business and Industry division is that they will sometimes customize an offering for you. For instance, I had a client that wanted to teach their employees coaching skills. The “off the shelf” product that the local business and industry division offered wasn’t geared toward my client’s industry, which was retail. They felt their employees wouldn’t really grasp it or identify with the concepts if it wasn’t more specific to the retail industry. So they asked the Business and Industry division of their local Community College to tweak it, which they did for a minimal fee.

You can also ask your local college or university to develop a course or curriculum specifically for you. One of the most incredible examples that I have witnessed is a community college that developed a new hire data processing training curriculum for a local insurance company. The school opened a new division of the community college – in a small office building – right next to where the insurance company was located. Everybody who got hired by this insurance company went right to the community college for their first month of training. So, basically, the college was the de facto data-entry training program for the insurance company and the insurance company didn’t have to do anything other than pay a monthly bill. They didn’t have to design a curriculum, they didn’t have to provide the facilities, they didn’t have to provide the instructor – it was incredible.

So look to the resources that are right in your own backyard because a lot of times they’re just there – ready to help you.

T/D: It sounds like even if you’re a small or one-person training department you shouldn’t feel overwhelmed by all your training responsibilities – 99% of the time the training’s already happening informally or it’s available in your backyard. All you have to do is take advantage of it.

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Dr. Nanette Miner has been an instructional designer for over two decades. She is President and Managing Consultant for The Training Doctor which specializes in working with subject matter experts to take the knowledge from their heads and design learning in such a way that others can adopt and implement the training immediately. She is also the author of The Accidental Trainer and co-author of Tailored Learning: Designing a Blend that Fits.