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The Enrollment Roller-Coaster

The Enrollment Roller-Coaster

~Numbers fall in a rising economy, but college continues to train students to meet workforce needs~

The following content, courtesy of Virginia Business:

Reynolds students

While it has three campuses, half of the students take some classes online. Courtesy Reynolds Community College

At the opening convocation of J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in late September, President Gary Rhodes listened to the school’s alma mater, introduced and recognized other guests and college board members gathered on the college’s Henrico County campus.

Rhodes noted that the college foundation had, among other moves, awarded $500,000 in student scholarships while raising money for a new IV pump for the health-care programs, a 3-D printer for engineering and a drone for horticulture studies. He also went over some improvements at the college’s three campuses in Henrico, Goochland counties and Richmond.

Then, under a PowerPoint slide headlined “Challenges,” Rhodes dropped a bombshell. “Enrollments are down 25 percent over the past five years,” he said. The audience greeted the revelations with silence.

Later, Rhodes said that, while he was not offering excuses for the drop in enrollment, the dynamics under which community colleges operate explain a lot about what happened.

In 2012, when Virginia’s economy still was clawing its way out of the Great Recession, Reynolds hit an enrollment high of more than 20,000 students. Many sought workplace skills to help them find new jobs or careers.

Now, with Richmond’s unemployment hovering at 4 percent or less, enrollment has dipped to 16,800 or so. People are less likely to enroll in college when they have jobs and things are good, Rhodes notes.

He says the formula for the roller coaster that community colleges ride in enrollments is simple. “Weak economy equals strong enrollments. Strong economy equals weak enrollments,” he explains.

Every year, Rhodes says, the college makes “a conservative guesstimate” of what its enrollment will be. If enrollment falls, and the cash flow from tuitions is lower than expected, faculty and staff are not replaced if they leave or various programs are merged.

“Ultimately, we want to have healthy enrollment, and it’s not just the money side. It’s the workers,” Rhodes says. “Pick any industry out there, and they’re just screaming that they can’t find trained workers.”

Students from 42 countries
Preparing those workers is a top priority for Reynolds and other community colleges. Students obtain industry certification, earn associate degrees or transfer to four-year institutions for more education. On average, about 900 students transfer each year from Reynolds.

Rhodes, a former board chair of the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce (now, ChamberRVA), says his favorite data point — one that nearly always gets an audience’s attention — is this: “One out of every four workers in the Greater Richmond region has attended Reynolds Community College, and one in every three health-care workers,” Rhodes says, citing a study by the Richmond-based SIR consulting firm.

Since Reynolds opened in 1972, it has become the third-largest community college in Virginia (behind Northern Virginia and Tidewater community colleges), and officials say that more than 310,000 students have enrolled in for-credit courses.

Today, half of Reynolds students are taking one or more classes online, and 17 percent are earning all of their credits online. This fall, the student body included representatives from 42 foreign countries, including war-torn Afghanistan.

Besides fluctuations in the economy, Rhodes cites other factors that affect enrollment.

Low birth rates 18 years ago led to fewer U.S. students entering college in 2017. Also, state funding has dwindled over the years from 60 percent to 35 percent of Reynolds’ operational budgets, Rhodes says. As a result, tuitions are higher, and students have to shoulder more of the costs.

To boost its student body, Reynolds is making the enrollment process simpler and engaging more students while they are still in high school or middle school, through programs such as Advance College Academies. Under that program, outstanding high school students can earn associate degrees while completing their high-school diploma requirements.

The program has set up an interesting dynamic for its high school seniors. They are awarded their associate degrees in May before they receive their high-school diplomas in June. “They graduate from college before they graduate from high school,” Rhodes says with a laugh. In 2017, 63 high school students graduated from the program.

Students typically apply to an academy program in the eighth grade through their local school division, enroll in advanced high-school courses in the ninth and 10th grades and take the required college coursework for their associate degrees during the 11th and 12th grades. “They will stay together all four years,” Rhodes says of students in the program.

JLARC report
Community colleges are likely to come under scrutiny at the next session of the General Assembly as the result of a report issued in September by the state Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC).

Among other findings, JLARC reported that only 39 percent of Virginia’s community college students earned degrees or other credentials, a trend in line with patterns seen across the nation.

JLARC also says that the process and resources enabling community college students to transfer to four-year institutions are difficult to use.

JLARC adds that rising tuition rates and fees at community colleges could affect access, affordability and student success. During the past 10 years, tuition and fees have grown from 6 percent of per-capita disposable income to 11 percent, the report says.

Echoing comments by community college Chancellor Glenn DuBois, Rhodes notes that, while there is room for improvement, many of the issues raised by JLARC can be traced to the different populations served by community colleges and four-year institutions. Generally speaking, community college students are older, poorer and attend college part time, Rhodes says. “Seventy-five percent of our students are part time,” the Reynolds president says, “and 75 percent work.”

Workforce development
While Reynolds has seen an overall drop in enrollment, students have been rushing to enter the college’s workforce development program for high-demand fields, such as welding, manufacturing and health care.

“The Community College Workforce Alliance, which is a partnership of Reynolds and John Tyler [Community College], was No. 1 in the state for workforce credential attainment, No. 1 for the number of people we have enrolled in the program,” says Elizabeth Creamer, vice president for workforce development at Reynolds.

As of mid-September, more than 900 students have been through the program under the Reynolds/Tyler alliance. The principal driver of the program has been the Workforce Credential Grant, established by the legislature, which has just completed its first year.

Under the grant, the state pays two-thirds of the tuition costs directly to the college, with students responsible for the other third. But requirements are stringent. The college is paid a third of the cost only when a student successfully completes the course, and the final third is received only if the student successfully obtains a credential or certification from an industry or certifying agency.

The bar also is high even before the first dollar is paid. “You can only get a credential through the state at greatly reduced or no cost if it’s aligned with a regionally available job for which there is a documented shortage of workers,” Creamer says.

Besides preparing students for high-demand occupations, the program also certifies teachers.

Those teachers, who must already possess a bachelor’s degree before they enter the program, are largely destined for public schools in subject areas where instructors are hard to find: technical education, science and technology, engineering technology and mathematics.

“We’re not going to get the teachers in the fields we need through the teacher education programs at the universities,” Creamer says. “So, we have expedited programs for those who have a baccalaureate and who are willing and able to go into teaching. They can access that job now and get their teaching credentials in a matter of months, not years.”

Transfer students
Reynolds also transfers about 900 students annually to four-year institutions. One of them was Sofia Duarte, whose parents operate a small residential cleaning service in the Richmond area.

Duarte, now 21, says she chose to go to a community college to save on higher-education costs — about $20,000 less when a student first goes to a community college and then transfers — and to help ensure that her parents had enough money to help her younger sister.

Duarte, an honors student, earned scholarships at Reynolds, worked a variety of part-time jobs, and then transferred to Virginia Commonwealth University where she is now a senior in the School of Engineering, earning a degree in electrical engineering. “Honestly, for me Reynolds opened a lot of doors to meet amazing people and have amazing opportunities,” Duarte says. She says Reynolds offered small classes, good teachers and strong academic advising.

And her younger sister, Sabrina, 18, whom she mentored, has done okay, too. She’s now enrolled at the University of Richmond, on scholarship.

Rhodes, who is now in his 16th year as president of Reynolds, says he knows enrollments will continue to fluctuate as the economy fluctuates. But that’s not what concerns him most.

He is worried about many young people and adults — from underemployed baccalaureate degree holders who can’t find jobs in their field to high school dropouts to laid-off workers — who could benefit from the wide variety of programs offered by Reynolds. “Everything we do here at the community college is preparing people for life and careers,” Rhodes says.


Content credit: Gary Robertson, Virginia Business
Photo credit for students and Dr. Rhodes: Reynolds Community College
Photo credit for Elizabeth Creamer: Shandell Taylor
Original Article: http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/the-enrollment-roller-coaster

Does your organization have an internal coaching culture to develop future leaders?

Does your organization have an internal coaching culture to develop future leaders?

Employers invest thousands of dollars annually to acquire new employees. According to Sharlyn Lauby at Business Management Daily, “They pour time and resources into recruiting, interviewing, hiring, onboarding, and training a new employee. So if a new employee—or a long-tenured one, for that matter—makes a mistake, it’s often best to consider coaching…instead of immediately thinking about discipline and possible termination.” Lauby suggests comparing the relative costs of replacing an employee with salvaging an already-established relationship.

When employees are not strong contributors–that is, their managers and coworkers recognize them as low performers—what happens? Either nothing or, often, the manager considers a disciplinary approach or even the possibility of termination. Is punishment the goal or is the purpose to change the employee’s behavior? This is where coaching enters the picture. Coaching should not be confused with mentoring or counseling. But what is it exactly?

According to the International Coaching Federation (ICF), coaching is a process that inspires workers to maximize their personal and professional potentials. It is a series of discussions to help draw out the potential of people relevant to their goals and the expectations that their companies have set for them.

Bob Huebner, a CCWA coach and consultant, tells us, “The coach, through questions, helps individuals explore their goals, the obstacles and challenges they face, ways to overcome those challenges, and the next steps to advance their progress toward achievement. The best coaches ask the best questions.”

In Kathy Gurchiek’s article, Should Your Organization Use Internal Coaches?, Amy Lui Abel, Ph.D., who is managing director of human capital at The Conference Board, writes that coaching is now more targeted and often complements other leadership development programs. Organizations are now expanding their coaching cultures by:

  • Embedding coaching into talent and performance management processes
  • Developing leaders and managers at all levels to be coaches
  • Training senior leaders to lead coaching efforts within the company

Gurchiek’s article also describes Google’s “…plethora of internal coaches, including those who help new employees navigate the company culture and those who work with people managers to develop their teams. It also has an executive development team that focuses on leadership coaching.”

She discusses the launching of Career Guru at Google that has broadened into Guru-plus with 350 internal coaches in 60 offices around the world. “Google Hangouts” makes the virtual coaching possible. Coaches support many topics, such as sales or delivering presentations. A sales employee who is preparing for a big sales demonstration in the U.K. may receive coaching from one of the sales gurus working in the U.S. Someone working on delivering a presentation for TED Talks might be virtually coached by a TED Talks guru in another geographical location.

Do the managers in your organization encounter any of the following coaching challenges?

  • New employees confronting learning curves?
  • Seasoned staff members tackling unfamiliar tasks?
  • Difficult employees creating workplace problems?

If your answer to any of these questions is “yes,” CCWA can help your managers learn specific coaching skills and techniques to handle these situations effectively. Managers who provide regular coaching increase overall engagement among their employees. If your organization is interested in learning more about making coaching an organizational priority, CCWA coaches are trained to work with leaders to inspire them to their personal and professional potential, thus increasing productivity and effectiveness.

“Coaching is a lot about asking questions that help individuals discover how their values may be driving their behavior in a particular situation and then helping them find solutions to challenges. Coaching is not telling people what to do and barking orders. It’s a skill”

— Amy Lui Abel

CCWA partners with hundreds of employers each year to offer a wide range of professional development services to engage your team. We tailor our programs to meet organizational needs.  If you’re interested in learning more about any of CCWA’s client services, please contact:

Joyce Lapsley
Client Services Coordinator
Community College Workforce Alliance
Phone: 804-706-5180
Email: JLapsley@ccwa.vccs.edu

CCWA’s Manufacturing Tech Training Gives an Edge Toward Employment

CCWA’s Manufacturing Tech Training Gives an Edge Toward Employment

In the last year, CCWA has conducted hands-on Manufacturing Technician 1 (MT1) classes for nearly 300 participants. The MT1 training is one of several programs in the FastForward initiative – offering industry-recognized certificates that meet business and employment demands and support career development for individuals.

Listen to the Interview:

 

Learn more about the program and MT1 training in this segment from WVTF (10/5/17):
http://wvtf.org/post/virginias-pay-performance-grant-unique-take-free-community-college

Data Conversation is a Highlight to RVA Tech Week

Data Conversation is a Highlight to RVA Tech Week

Virginia’s Governor Terry McAuliffe and City of Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney kicked the week off on Monday morning, and the excitement continued at the first official luncheon of Tech Week, at Pasture Restaurant, in Richmond.  “Data is Beautiful” was the theme, and a moderated discussion ensued with two representatives from Altria: Charles Tango and Ian Tyndall.  The two IT experts from this data-rich company detailed how the use of data has changed in recent years.  Below is a summary of their conversation.

How has data collection, usage and storage changed?
There has been an increasing emphasis on personalizing data. Even millennials are more willing to provide personal data if they can get a better, personalized experience.  Privacy is valued by everyone, but younger people are more liberal with how they conceive of private data and they view the sharing of personal information differently than their parents.  This is important and a challenge for businesses like an Altria, who have customers that span many different generations.  Global and cultural differences further exacerbate the complexities of data personalization.

How do businesses like Altria figure out what data to use?
Altria has a defined IT governance, with rigorous vetting of business ideas tied to data.  Most of their new business strategies are hypothesis driven, not just the result of broadly collecting data or generally looking for trends to emerge on their own.  They start with some specific ideas and testing. They also look at how other businesses could disrupt their ideas and impact the bottom line.   They use strategic three-year plans, with an annual review process, which ties into an overarching ten-year concept.

What do you look for when hiring people to work with data?
Altria wants people who can understand data and make informed decisions; this is a difficult skill set to fill.  Businesses like Altria, and likely yours, need the right skill set and mindset, in addition to learning the applications used in the analysis of data.  Beyond the technical, there is a need for leadership skills, and extensive communication skills.  The expectation is that your responsibilities will grow over time when you work at Altria, so the need for the soft and hard skills are critical.  Tech skills are trending and programs like Microsoft Excel are here to stay because they are necessary for day-to-day business success.

Machine learning and analyzing data.  When will the tech be able to help us make thoughtful decisions?
There are lots of packages that can help you visualize data, but there is an art to being able to understand data well in YOUR business context.  This is hard to bridge in any industry.  Machine learning has a potential to really help with this down the road.  Imagine technology that could tell you this each day: “Here are the three things you can do today to move your business forward.”  Once machine learning can do that, it will really come into its own.  Bottom Line: Let’s stop producing reports and work to create actionable data.  Software today doesn’t really do this.  But it will!

Are the relationships between business folks and the IT folks a problem? 
Businesses have a hard time understanding what IT people do. The IT professional must have an entrepreneurial, project management mindset.  While it’s not a simple task,  it was suggested that IT people need to be able to explain what they do with a unique story for leadership and peers.

What is exciting or going to happen in the next five years? 
There is excitement about block chain technology, as there is an opportunity to streamline supply chain interactions, and possibly benefit the consumer side of the market. There are also growing trends in security that may alter the future cyber world.

Are you looking to improve your data analysis or soft skills?  Check out these classes:


This post was written by CCWA’s IT Director and frequent attendee of RVA Tech Week sessions, Dr. Nick Langlie.

Are you engaging your employees?

Are you engaging your employees?

Investing in talent development for your employees benefits your bottom line.
You’ve probably heard this paradox:
What if we train them, and they leave?
What if we don’t, and they stay?

Where does your organization stand on these questions?

The 2017 Gallup State of the American Workplace report asserts that “the key to an organization’s growth has been and always will be its workforce.” Employee retention and engagement are more than buzz words; they are critical components of the overall performance of an organization.

According to Gallup, “The desire to learn and grow is a natural human need and one that is required to keep employees motivated and progressing. When employees feel they are learning and growing, they work harder and more efficiently. And the best employees are never quite satisfied with their work. They always strive to find better, more productive ways to work. In this kind of work environment, innovation emerges. When people grow, companies evolve and grow and are more likely to stay in business.”

Renee Gendron, in a blog for the Association of Talent Development, writes that employers can be proactive and intentional about the professional growth of their employees. According to Gendron, “When employers develop their own talent, not only are they saving money because they have lower turnover rates, but they are also developing their own internal leadership skills.” Building leaders from within helps to create stronger teams in an improved culture of development.

Likewise, a recent Robert Half blog entry discusses some reasons why investing in employee growth is a smart idea. They suggest that professional development will:

  • Increase collective knowledge of your team
  • Boost job satisfaction
  • Attract the right kind of job candidates during recruitment
  • Enhance the organization’s appeal to prospective and incumbent employees
  • Identify future leaders from within the organization
  • Increase retention

“Unfortunately,… many organizations spend more on recruiting new talent than developing the top talent they already have; that has to change in order for companies to be successful in a tight talent market.”

— Joyce Maroney
Kronos Incorporated & Director of the Workforce Institute

CCWA partners with hundreds of employers each year to offer a wide range of professional development services to engage your team. Our custom-designed programs may begin with an assessment, followed by the creation of tools to fill performance gaps; then, we can provide training and coaching solutions that allow your employees to reach their full potential. If you’re interested in learning more about CCWA’s client services, please contact:

Joyce Lapsley
Client Solutions Manager
Community College Workforce Alliance
Phone: 804-706-5180
Email: JLapsley@ccwa.vccs.edu

Do your frontline employees consistently give your customers more than they are expecting?

Do your frontline employees consistently give your customers more than they are expecting?

Frontline employees deal with challenging issues and interact directly with customers daily—whether on the phone, face-to-face, email, or social media.  The ability to provide excellent customer service is a result of learning and applying a combination of skills, such as communication, problem solving, listening, phone etiquette, choosing the correct words, asking questions, building confidence with difficult customers, to name a few.

In their book, Raving Fans, Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowls, write that “raving fans” will share with friends and coworkers about your service, instead of being merely satisfied and telling no one or broadcasting poor service over social media.

Did you know that it costs more to attract new customers than it does to maintain a relationship with current customers? A two percent increase in customer retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10 percent. (Leading on the Edge of Chaos, Emmet & Mark Murphy)

96% of unhappy customers do not complain; however, 91% of those same customers will leave and will not come back, not because of the quality of the product, but because they did not like the way they were treated.

Skills, Knowledge, and Attitude

Nothing substitutes for knowledge of your organization and its products and services, except maybe for displaying a winning attitude and honing your customer service skills. These three qualities—Knowledge, Skills, and Attitude–work together to keep your customers coming back. They also build teamwork among your company’s internal customers. When employees work together well, external customers notice, which, in turn, contributes to customer loyalty and the bottom line.

Training Makes a Difference

Investing in employee customer service training is key to providing your customers with a stellar experience. Putting an extra effort into customer service may give companies a competitive advantage. With products and services becoming more and more similar, customer service is one of the few ways in which an organization can differentiate itself and stand out.

The Community College Workforce Alliance’s (CCWA’s) training can help you and your employees create best practices that will improve both customer and employee satisfaction. CCWA’s Customer Service Academy provides an updated Building Blocks for Excellent Customer Service program that will help your team learn new and better ways to deliver excellence to your customers.

Upgrade to a Certification

CCWA has partnered with the National Retail Federation (NRF) and created the added option of obtaining a Customer Service & Sales certification once the training is completed. This certification confirms that your customer service professionals are knowledgeable with winning attitudes and enhanced skills. This credential will help the employees advance in their careers and contribute to the quality of the customer experience.

A recognized certification will help your employees stand out and will put your organization ahead of competitors.

Remember that customer service is everybody’s business! Set a goal today to make certain that your staff is making every client connection a positive one.

CCWA is here to help you raise the bar and become more customer service-centered. Our bench of highly motivated instructors is ready to help your team provide excellent customer service that will keep your customers coming back!

Joyce Lapsley
Client Solutions Manager
Corporate Training & Consulting
804-706-5180
jlapsley@ccwa.vccs.edu