Contract Education: How the California Community Colleges Are Helping Businesses Meet Strategic Goals With Custom Employee Training Programs.
An Interview with Sandra Sisco, director and technical assistant provider, contract education, California Community Colleges.
By Jon Wollenhaupt
Q. What is your role as technical assistant provider? How are you helping the California Community Colleges’ Contract Education Departments meet the incumbent employee training needs of businesses?
A. I provide technical assistance and services to the California Community Colleges that are responding to the organizational development needs of business and industry. Colleges partner with employers to design and deliver high-caliber, condensed, custom training programs for employees. Ultimately, the goal is to increase an organization’s effectiveness and/or efficiencies in order to better compete in a global marketplace and stimulate our local economies.
Because the community colleges’ Contract Education Departments function as entrepreneurial businesses units, I provide marketing support and practices that help the colleges build their contract education businesses. I am currently helping one college develop a business plan so they can further support business and industry in their district.
Q. Why is Contract Education an Essential Role for a Community College?
A. Contract education plays a critical role in fulfilling the colleges’ mission of assisting the state with economic and workforce development. The community colleges, via their contract education professionals, provide consulting and customized training programs to small, medium and large corporations, associations, and state government agencies that seek to maintain and increase the productivity of their workforce and meet strategic business goals. Many of the training programs are aligned to a body of knowledge that leads to nationally recognized industry certifications, continuing education units (CEU’s) or college credit.
Q. What Are the Competitive Strengths of Community Colleges as Employee Training Service Providers?
Because the colleges have established connections to the business community via outreach, professional organizations and industry councils, each college’s contract education staff understands the workforce training and development needs of local businesses. In many cases, the college’s subject matter experts sit on the boards of local corporations. And because the contract education units of community colleges are highly agile, they can respond much more quickly to the needs of businesses for customized curriculum and training programs. Most importantly, the colleges are winning new contracts because of the quality and experience of their subject matter experts. When working with a community college, businesses appreciate that they can select from a pool of highly qualified faculty members and subject matter experts who have recent industry experience. Contract education practitioners invest time hand selecting trainers to meet the specific needs of the employer and the overall culture of their organization. They also spend significant time vetting trainers, checking references, and getting them up to speed on the client’s expectations. This is one of the key reasons local businesses rely on their local community college for training and workforce development.
Additionally, if an organization has a statewide project that requires training to be delivered to multiple locations throughout the state or nationally, they can work through the California Corporate College to provide businesses with a single point-of-contact that can manage one contract for the resources of multiple colleges participating in a large, multisite project.
Lastly, the community colleges have been recognized as having the expertise to navigate and administrate state and local training funds on behalf of employers. Moreover, due to the excellent training outcomes, these agencies have designated the California Community Colleges as a primary partner. This means that employers who qualify for these funds do not have to deal with the red tape to engage the training dollars to support their training projects
A. Previously, I managed the Contract Education Department at Chaffey College, which is located in the Inland Empire region of western San Bernardino County. During that time I worked with several local manufacturing and logistics companies. We had an incredible pool of subject matter experts who were high–caliber, highly–credentialed trainers. I often worked with Elmano Alves who heads Chaffey College’s Industrial Electrical Technology Program—one of their longest running programs. Elmano has a wealth of industry experience and previously ran this his own company. Because of that experience, he relates very well to our manufacturing clients.
Q. Can You Provide a Brief Overview of a Project That You Worked On While in The Contract Education Department at Chaffey College?
A. We worked with an Ontario-based company called Safariland that manufactures protective products and equipment including armor, duty gear, and firearms accessories for law enforcement and the military. Working closely with their staff including Adam Goldman, vice president of human resources, we first delivered basic skills training and then expanded the scope of programs to include negotiation, continuous improvement, quality and leadership training. The custom curriculum and training programs we designed were delivered to multiple sites.
Safariland found it advantageous to work with us because we provided the subject matter experts who enabled them to deliver the training with a high degree of consistency to company locations across the country, and across the border into Mexico. We worked very closely with Safariland to ensure the training was particular to their needs. Additionally, Safariland employees were able to receive technical certifications.
We also helped Safariland navigate the complex state process to receive funds from the Employment Training Panel (ETP), which provides assistance to employers to upgrade workers’ skills.
When we help our employees become better leaders, there is a trickle-down effect. The benefits of training become contagious. It’s a positive inertia around learning, thinking and doing things differently. Simply by talking, engaging and teaching people, everyone becomes more focused on process improvement. —Scott O’Brien, president, Safariland
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