Howard Community College is finding ways to spread its educational programs nationwide and offer more to the companies that use it for training.
The Strategic Learning Partnership at the school targets the area's larger corporations, and offers them more than courses. It has potential to transform the college into a consultant, an extra arm of the human resources department, a local meeting place and a nationwide network of information and education.
`The next level'
"It's the next level beyond the instructional function," said Patricia M. Keeton, executive director of work force development at the Charles Ecker Business Training Center.
As part of the program, which is directed at county businesses with more than 100 employees, the college helps hold conferences, define and create educational curricula for corporate employees, track employees' educational progress and direct corporate work force training at distant locations. Consultations with clients are free, in an effort to encourage the companies to enroll in the college's training programs.
The college has worked with one company as a partner and is expected to begin programs for a second within a month.
"We are growing ourselves more into the consultant, not only understanding the training need but where it fits in the business process," Keeton said. "What Howard Community College is trying to do is take a leadership role in showing the businesses in our county that there are many benefits we can provide beyond training in their local classroom environment. Those solutions extend to helping figure out how to retain employees, how to increase their own competitiveness, identifying funding sources that can offset costs, and enhancing their own facilities."
Keeton estimated that the Strategic Learning Partnership generated about $25,000 last fiscal year, and she projects that sum will double this year as efforts to expand the program continue. She said the college would like to add three to five new partners a year. Consulting services are free to encourage employers to enroll their workers in college classes.
Part of the program's purpose is to broaden the understanding of what the college can do. Keeton said companies used the college for basic training, but not if they wanted to train in offices across the country. Companies knew they could expect the college to customize a class for their employees, but not help them play host to a conference.
"It's so amazing to me no matter how many times I go out, when a company says, `Oh, I didn't know you did that,'" Keeton said. "It's our job to help them understand that."