Keeping Pace

Continuing Education and Customized Training at Normandale Keeping Pace

The breakneck speed at which demand for new workplace skills and knowledge changes in today's marketplace keeps job seekers—and Normandale's Continuing Education and Customized Training staff—busier than ever.

-by Chuck Benda

New Core Competencies
| Hybrid Solutions | A Strong Report Card | Agile and Scrum

Change Management Seminar Participants at Normandale

"Normandale is very cognizant of and adaptive to what the workplace needs."
Dan Olson, co-founder
Star Collaborative
Photo by Katie Heymer

New software, new hardware, new workplace processes, new organizational hierarchies—this is the "new economy." The modern workplace is so demanding and changes so rapidly that employers find themselves with job openings that neither Superman or Wonder Woman could fill—and yet, both Jane and John Doe have to try to keep up.

Enter Normandale Community College's Continuing Education and Customized Training (CECT) program. The program's raison d'être is to help employers and employees by providing the training needed to meet the current marketplace demands—and develop new courses and training programs to keep pace with changes in the marketplace.

"We regularly talk with both business leaders and our students to try to identify changing expectations and trends," said CECT Dean Brenda Dickinson. "We're always looking for ways to improve our curriculum and to keep our classes current and relevant."

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New Core Competencies

Reading wRiting, and aRithmetic haven't been enough to get the job done for a long time—but just how high employers' expectations have risen might astound you, according to Jeff Hudson, CECT program director.

"You can't just be an accountant anymore," said Hudson. "The global economy and other factors have created a more sophisticated and more complex business environment. You can no longer succeed as the person who only knows how to do one thing., no matter how well you do it."

Today, whether you're a topnotch accountant or accomplished information technologist, employer are going to expect you to possess three new core skills, according to Hudson:

  1. The ability to work with and adapt to change
  2. The ability to work effectively with data
  3. The abililty to be a team player who can work across disciplines, as well as management levels.

Toward that end, CECT is developing new courses and programs, repurposing old ones, and working with outside providers to see that Normandale students are up to speed in these new core competencies.

"It's an incremental process, but we've really made a lot of progress in developing our curriculum around change management and change leadership," said Hudson. "We offer classes and other training in this area for all levels: the individual worker, the front line supervisor, and upper level management."

One of CECT's new offerings around change is a two-day seminar provided on campus by change management experts H. Terry Smith and Lisa Zweber-Smith, founding partners of The Implementation Institute.

"Many of our business participants have received positions of greater responsibility by better understanding the components and impacts of change on people and the business," said Terry Smith.

Normandale students who take the seminar may also earn Change Agent Certification through additional work prior to and after the seminar, according to Hudson.

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Hybrid Solutions

Other marketplace changes include the emergence of so-called hybrid skill sets that combine high-level training in two fields, such as information technology and health care to create new fields like Healthcare Information Technology. Even so, many employers are having trouble filling their job openings, according to CECT Associate Dean, Sunny Ainley.

"Employers are asking for the world when it comes to employee qualifications," said Ainley. "And, in many cases, there aren't enough workers out there that have the experience and skill sets the employers want."

To help fill the void, CECT is turning more and more to what Ainley calls "an applied learning space that connects industry and the workforce: the practicum." CECT staff members meet with business representatives, determine their wants and needs, and put together a team of students with various skill sets that meet some of the business' needs and provide them with an "in-the-workplace" training program. CECT developed one such practicum for the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), and the outcomes have been impressive.

“We were trying to figure out how to develop electronic measures with our limited resources and small staff,” said Becky Schierman, associate director for quality of AAN. “We knew Normandale Community College received a federal grant for the Health IT Work Force program and thought it would be a great pairing for a practicum.”

The data AAN needs exists in Electronic Health Records (EHRs)—but developing the tools and the requisite employee skills needed to locate, assimilate, and report on the information in the EHRs would have been cost prohibitive for AAN.

"The practicum, developed in collaboration with Normandale, is a win-win situation," said Schierman. "We get the deliverable we need in electronic healthcare quality measures—and, at the same time, we help advance the workforce by educating employees for new kinds of jobs."

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A Strong Report Card

Overall, Normandale has done quite well when it comes to helping build new core competencies into the Twin Cities workforce and developing creative training programs.

"Normandale is very cognizant of and adaptive to what the workplace needs," says Dan Olson, co-founder of the Star Collaborative, one of the fastest growing consulting firms in the Twin Cities. "For example, they're way ahead of the curve when it comes to developing curriculum for the new agile software management tool known as Scrum."

"I don't know how they do it," Olson continues, "but they've clearly demonstrated that they're willing to develop curriculum quickly to match up with the workplace needs. I find that rare in the educational world."

"At the end of the day, we're here to help businesses and individuals reach their goals by providing learning experiences that offer those new insights and needed skills," said Dickinson. "It's our job to bring the best resources and expertise to our clients so that they can find better ways to lead, compete and succeed."

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Agile and Scrum: Learn the Latest Software Development Tools and Strategies

Doing business today requires an ability to develop customer-focused products and services faster than ever. Agile methods and Scrum training provide strategies and tools to teams who are charged with managing complex projects. Agile product development is one of the fastest growing areas in project management. It grew out of the software development community but has now become a sought-after approach for new product development across business sectors.

Normandale works with national experts to deliver Certified ScrumMaster and Scrum Product Owner training programs.

More than 400 employees from companies of all sizes have attended these programs in the last few years.

Companies represented have included-

  • Accenture
  • Datacard
  • HealthPartners
  • General Mills
  • The Nerdery
  • QBP
  • Seagate
  • Starkey Labs
  • SuperValu
  • Target Corporation
  • Travelers Insurance
  • Wells Fargo.

Normandale is the connecting point for Agile methods and Scrum training in Minnesota.

Find Out More: For more information about Continuing Education and Customized Training programs, call 952-358-8343.