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Business Officer Magazine
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Workforce Training on the Double

Spotlight: Community Colleges, from "Business Briefs" department in April 2010 issue of Business Officer

By David Bea

Skills needed for jobs continue to evolve in response to rapid changes in an increasingly competitive marketplace. To help Southern Arizona businesses keep up with those demands, Pima Community College (PCC), Tucson, has streamlined its processes for developing and approving workforce development courses. “New credit, noncredit, and CEU [continuing education unit] courses can be developed and delivered within one week to a company,” says Nancy Russell, vice president of instruction at PCC Community Campus. “Thanks to the region's WIRED grant, contract training remains in high demand in spite of these difficult economic times,” Russell states. The WIRED initiative—Workforce Initiative in Regional Economic Development—is a program of the U.S. Department of Labor to support regional worker preparation.

Demand Defines Programming

Between January 2008 and July 2009, the workforce and business development team housed at the Community Campus worked with more than 40 businesses, teaching topics ranging from business writing to computer programming to supervision and leadership. The college has also formed partnerships with more than 100 health-care providers through its nursing, emergency medical technology, radiology technology, dental studies, and other programs. The workforce and business development team members contact existing and former clients for the opportunity to provide training; additionally, the staff members are active in regional chambers and other business associations that enable them to attract new clients. The faculty and administrators at all six campuses are also involved in establishing relationships with businesses. The team specifically assists the campuses with identifying clients' needs, negotiating contracts, and delivering training.

Development in Overdrive

We've come up with an approach that provides an accelerated way of getting curricula off the ground. As a member of Global Corporate College, a consortium of community and technical colleges nationwide, PCC is able to access curricula from institutions around the country within a week if needed. Pima staff query consortium members when specific curriculum is needed for a client, and members promptly respond. We may then use gathered curriculum to refine and customize courses to meet the particular client's needs. If the courses are to be offered only under contract, they are expedited through Pima's curriculum process.

PCC's Logistics and Supply Chain Management program is an example of a training module that we developed, approved, and offered within 60 days of the employers' request, using this system. To ensure that the logistics curriculum addressed the collective needs of all the logistics companies in the Tucson area, representatives of the college—along with 27 logistics companies in Pima County—participated in focus groups. The groups reviewed the curriculum information obtained through our contacts at Global Corporate College and determined the key items that needed to be included in the customized training program.

Training Boosts Business

Many employers report being extremely satisfied with the customized training their staff have received and return for more. “PCC offered the best product for the cost,” says Lauri Martin, human resources generalist of Arizona's G&T Cooperatives. “The classes were tailored to our company operations and were taught at our facility, making them relevant and convenient for our employees. Some employees even moved into management positions as a result of the training.”

Pima's workforce and business development team has been proven to efficiently and effectively provide training opportunities for the regional workforce. The results have enabled businesses and organizations to see a measurable return on investment, improve opportunities for individual workers, and enhance the skills of our community's workforce.

SUBMITTED BY David Bea, executive vice chancellor for finance and administration, Pima Community College, Tucson