COD programs to help workers looking to expand skills
By Hank Beckman For The Sun July 21, 2012 3:24PM
Updated: August 23, 2012 10:55AM
With the economy still rocky, College of DuPage officials believe that worker training classes make more sense than ever.
Glenda Gallisath, associate vice president of Academic Affairs at the College of DuPage, gave the college’s board a report Thursday on the college’s Workforce Development program.
The college has long maintained a Workforce Development program to help workers in need of new skills, but the need became more acut when the bottom fell out of the economy in late 2008.
“During what I call the first phase of the economic crisis,” is when the college decided to be more proactive, Gallisath said.
While some schools might have a single office devoted to developing workplace skills, Gallisath heads an effort that integrates with 12 other departments in assisting district residents who find themselves in need of employment counseling or training.
“We seek to assist those who are not served or underserved,” she said.
Gallisath called the college’s effort “market-driven” and stressed that the college was striving to make its services accessible to students, residents and employers.
Gallisath noted that people make use of the college’s services for a variety of different reasons, especially in light of the still-soft economy.
“We saw the biggest spike in enrollment (after the 2008 crash),” she said, characterizing the jump as “in your face.”
But as much as the college had to offer in workplace development, it couldn’t assist those who weren’t aware of its services.
“People didn’t know what we were doing,” Gallisath said.
Lately, the college has been doing quite a lot to help those in need of training. For starters, there are the 12 new degree or certificate programs begun in the last three years, some utilizing new construction on campus, including the Homeland Security Training Center and the Culinary and Hospitality Center.
Then there are the partnerships with four-year institutions, which allow students to earn a four-year degree while studying the entire time on the COD campus. The first three years are spent on general education and preliminary major requirements and the last focuses on the student’s major.
The results are a significant reduction in expenses for the student and a chance for COD to form special partnerships with particular schools for particular disciplines, college officials said. For instance, Lewis University specializes in law enforcement, Roosevelt University in hospitality and tourism, and Benedictine University has a strong nursing and science program.
“This has been huge,” Gallisath said. “It’s the biggest thing we do.”
Another project in the works is a summit on manufacturing in DuPage County, to be hosted by the college at a future date in 2012 and including various employers and community groups like Choose DuPage.
But four-year programs and high-profile meetings aren’t the only ways for a community college to provide assistance for those seeking employment.
The assistance needed might be in improving current job skills, learning about automation in the workplace, or counseling about local employment opportunities.
Many are facing layoffs and employment fields that are undergoing change due to technological innovation or outsourcing, some have been laid off, while still others need advice on something as basic as their resume-writing skills that have been dormant for 25 years, she said.
“Whatever your situation, we have something to offer,” Gallisath said.