Helping hands

President Obama called on all Americans to further their education by pursuing at least one year of higher education or advanced training as part of a broader initiative to improve the country’s ability to compete in the global economy. A more educated work force certainly is in the best interests of both the individual and his or her employer.

Jim Hutcherson, the vice president of Strategic & Academic Alliances for University of Phoenix, creates partnerships that help achieve that goal.

“We’re seeing a lot of companies making a strong investment in education,” Hutcherson says. “They recognize the added leverage they can achieve by expanding what they’ve historically viewed as ‘training’ to a broader initiative tied to advanced education.”

Smart Business spoke with Hutcherson about how universities can help companies improve the quality of their work forces.

How can the corporate world support the education and training of its employees?

Many companies today are taking a hard look at the value of the human capital they have within the organization and how they can make investments into their work forces.

Specifically, companies are seeking ways to spend their dollars on educational programs that provide the skills their employees need. As an example, one large manufacturer we are working with recently evaluated its education spending. They realized they were spending a lot of money for education that didn’t really fit what their corporation needed. So they made a major investment to retool their program and then backed that up by making a major investment in tuition reimbursement.

Why should companies partner with higher education institutions?

In today’s environment, higher education typically has a set of programs that are fairly broad and can be applied to a wide variety of situations. What many companies are recognizing is that by partnering with a higher education institution, they can create a variety of ways to build an education experience that applies to and benefits employees of their own particular company.

For instance, companies are working with universities to improve the way their existing programs are focused, enhancing them to support learning outcomes the company can use. The university will collaborate with companies and identify specific business problems or specific learning objectives that they really want those students to have. Then the university will incorporate those into the course of study along with the core competencies that are required for that course.

The enhancements can be anything from additional types of readings that are focused on a particular industry to a specific short-term or long-term business problem the company is facing.