Typically, a need to learn your company’s computer system might land you in a web architecture class with employees from 10 other companies. However, educational institutions are becoming more flexible and creative with their offerings to businesses, which has resulted in programs like the “Kroger Web Academy,” which Kroger employees attended this summer.
Developed through a partnership with the University of Cincinnati, the academy trains employees with common problems to address specific company needs.
Rajan Kamath, academic director for the University of Cincinnati’s Center for Executive Education, says most of the center’s new offerings are custom design solutions for specific company problems.
Tristate options for professional training are expanding to offer customized classes and business coaching, whether the need is for a particular skill or a streamlined company strategy. In addition to increasing course offerings, local technical schools are offering customized training for businesses, and universities are developing executive education centers for business consulting.

Executive education
“Continuing education is becoming problem-focused. The reason you’re coming back is because you want to solve specific problems, so you come back and gain a skill that you didn’t have before,” says UC’s Kamath.
UC addresses two separate market needs: those of small to medium-sized companies that would like to take advantage of an open enrollment class, and the needs of the Krogers of the world, which may have 60 people who all need to get up to speed on web architecture, he says.
However, small businesses may also be able to take advantage of custom training through new technology. Kamath says companies have expressed a considerable amount of interest in computer tutorials designed specifically for certain employees and skills.
“Companies are finding more and more that people are very busy. They can’t take more than two days off,” Kamath notes. He adds that it's more useful to offer them tools they can put on their desktops, then use the programs during a lunch break, on vacation or on a weekend.
Xavier University will also address specific business problems with its new Network for Professional Education and Leadership (XNET), which offers a curriculum of professional and individual enrichment programs. XNET draws on the experience of a group of professionals inside and outside of Xavier to offer a blend of academic education and real life business experience.
“I would argue that almost everyone who spends money on executive education is wasting it because it’s not focused on a problem and not focused on a strategy,” says Len Brzozowski, executive director of XNET programs.
XNET’s strategy, he says, begins with an identified problem. Throughout the program, participants gain the tools to attack the problem and by the end they have gained developed a solution.
The key is to learn by doing, Brzozowski emphasizes. Too often, the American style of learning begins with “dumping a bunch of PowerPoint slides, books and articles on you,” and the experience comes later — a style that fails to develop deep, lasting knowledge.
It’s the difference between sitting in a conference center and viewing PowerPoint slides and getting hands-on experience, he says. Many traditional executive education programs can be entertaining and can even receive positive evaluations from employees, he adds. “But did they learn anything and did they change their behaviors? That’s our criteria for success.”

Custom classes
General enrollment classes on nights and weekends aren’t the only way working employees get to the next level in their careers today.
Many institutions, including local technology-based schools, are bringing education to the workplace instead of inviting employees to their campuses.
Butler Technology and Career Development Schools provide custom corporate education programs in fields like human resources, office and computer training, and industrial training, and sometimes can bring them right to your workplace.
Warren County Career Center also offers specific training in many types of information technology, business, industry and trade.
“We do customized training for business and industry in any of our fields any of our areas,” says Peg Allen, public information specialist for the Warren County Career Center.
Cincinnati State also offers customized training in a variety of areas in business and industry, including information technology, health care, and industrial maintenance, all through its Workforce Development Center in Evendale. The center offers credit and not-for-credit courses on a schedule determined by the client.
Many local educational institutions are striving to customize their services for students, offering everything a working adult needs from online classes to accelerated courses in one place.
“Over the past few years, distance education has become more prevalent, but this isn’t the right choice for everyone,” says Iris Kelsen, vice president of external affairs for Wilmington College.
“A blended approach to learning — part online, part in class — is also something that will become more popular over the next few years. Accelerated courses are increasingly popular as well.”
Wilmington College offers an increasing number of accelerated courses during the week and on Saturdays, as well as an entire accelerated degree completion program in organizational leadership.

Training for Success
Open enrollment classes with flexible schedules and online courses are still a popular and convenient option for individuals who want to gain new skills and advance their careers.
“I think we’re constantly adding new programs with the same convenience, either one night a week or just on Saturday, so the adult learners can still work, maintain their job,” says Janet Friese, executive director of admissions at Indiana Wesleyan University.
New programs at Indiana Wesleyan include an exceptional learner certificate for teachers, which accommodates a special needs education market in Indiana, Friese notes. Also new are associates and bachelor’s degree offerings in ministry, which join Indiana Wesleyan’s graduate program.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean that they want to be a pastor, but just want to participate in various ways in ministry,” Friese says.
Heavy equipment and site training for those in the construction industry are in demand at The Warren County Career Center, which offers everything from adult literacy to information technology certification. Butler Tech is offering a new industrial welding training program this year, responding to good local job prospects.
Information technology also continues to be a popular field, says Warren County Career Center’s Allen. “We have lots of people come into our IT program to earn additional certifications,” she says. “People who have been out of school for a while may not be as current as they need to be with computer networking. We have people with master’s degrees that don’t have these certifications. They may have a master’s in computer science but they don’t have the certifications they need.”
Medical fields including nursing also continue to be popular and are becoming even more specialized. One of the most popular classes at UC’s Raymond Walters College is Radiation Science Technology. Courses such as veterinary technology and dental hygiene are also in demand, says Chris Powers, Director of Enrollment Services at Raymond Walters.
Raymond Walters, a two-year college of the University of Cincinnati, also offers a well-attended spectrum of business courses, from real estate to sales and marketing.
In many cases, classes taken for certification or training can also be applied toward an associate or bachelor’s degree. Wilmington College’s new branch campus in Blue Ash focuses on business-related degrees, especially for working adults. Their transfer policies are flexible, allowing students to finish degrees they started at other institutions as well as earn certificates and associates degrees that could count toward a bachelor’s degree.
Wilmington’s Kelsen says management has always been a popular degree option for adult learners at Wilmington, and interest in accounting, human resource management, and organizational leadership has also been strong over the past few years.

Lean Methods
­Learning how to create and implement “lean” — or waste-eliminating — methods in a company could pay off just as much as training employees for a new skill. Several organizations in the Tristate offer consulting and coaching to help businesses implement these methods.
Lean methods increase productivity by removing anything that doesn’t add to the end product, says Jon Lehn, business analyst for TechSolve.
“Examples would be excess inventory, excess motion or not utilizing employee skills knowledge and aptitude,” he says.
There are many lean tools and techniques for companies to choose from. Which ones businesses choose to employ and their level of complexity depends on the company and its situation. There are foundational elements of lean methodology but no standard template for action, Lehn says.
“We spend a lot of time up front with every client we work with to determine what the problems are,” Lehn says. “The first question should be why do you want to do this? What’s the goal?”
TechSolve then works to coach employees so the business can sustain the methods they have learned after TechSolve leaves. “People should understand not just what they’re doing but why they’re doing it,” Lehn says.
New this year is TechSolve’s “Winning Ways” program, which helps companies deal with systemic change and growth. The program helps businesses develop new products, markets and clients so they can continue to grow. Lehn says the program has attracted a lot of positive feedback.
Six Disciplines, which has a leadership center in the Cincinnati area, also employs lean strategies and coaching to help businesses improve efficiency and eliminate waste.
Its program, based on the book Six Disciplines for Excellence, takes businesses through six specific steps to improve their business model. The steps may be supplemented with software and internet-based assistance, along with personal client coaching.
Among other consulting companies, Butler Tech now offers Lean Method Consulting as part of its custom training offerings.