Beefing Up Skills On BeeFreeway

November 12, 2002
| By Katy Rent |
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LANSING — Looking to navigate the only freeway in town not under construction?

Then pull over to the nearest computer, steer onto the virtual highway and take a drive on the BeeFreeway.

In an effort to better train Michigan's work force, the Michigan Department of Career Development (MDCD) has launched the Business E-Education Freeway, or BeeFreeway.

BeeFreeway offers more than 1,300 self-paced employee training programs to Michigan's small businesses through a partnership between the MDCD and the Michigan Virtual University (MVU), pre-paid by the MDCD for the next three years.

By accessing the program's training library, employees have the opportunity to strengthen their technical skills, improve their management techniques, improve their earnings potential and generally enrich their workplaces.

The program organizes its courses in modules one can complete during downtime or between tasks.

Because the training modules are offered electronically, trainees can work at their own pace and at times that fit their personal schedules.

The MDCD says this ensures that small businesses don't lose vital employee hours to prolonged off-site training sessions. The arrangement also means that advanced students can move quickly to challenging material, while novices can take the time they need to become confident in the basics.

Because the modules target specific skills, MDCD says employees can fill knowledge gaps quickly when a new task arises or when their responsibilities increase.

When beginning a new module, the employee takes a pre-assessment test to determine his or her skill level.

The modules then will guide the student through the material in which the tests revealed that work was needed. The materials include interactive elements such as sound, graphics, video and real-world simulations.

Once the student has covered all of the material, he or she can measure personal progress by taking a mastery test.

Pre-paid classes are only available to small businesses, defined as Michigan employers with 25 or fewer full-time employees and students.

A student is defined as someone who is enrolled in one class or more at the local community college.

However, if the business or individual is not eligible for pre-paid training, the modules are available at what MDCD says are competitive rates through Corporate Learning Services at Michigan Virtual University.

Currently the MDCD and MVU are working to broaden the range of people who can use the program on a free basis.

"We would love to be able to offer it to people who are unemployed, on disability or workers' comp so they could get back on their feet and get the skills to get back into the work force," said David Spencer, president of the Michigan Virtual University.

By visiting www.talentfreeway.org businesses and students can sign up for BeeFreeway training by creating a log-on profile and proceeding to the registration page. And, unlike the traditional campus, there's no waiting in long lines during registration.

Registration is located at www.beefreeway.org/register.

After filling out the on-line registration form and submitting it, a business is able to begin accessing the training modules.

MVU also operates the Information Technology Training Initiative (ITTI), a similar program but with varied courses.

The ITTI focuses on improving IT skills within the education community to strengthen the future work force. About 800 Web-delivered, self-paced courses are available through ITTI, ranging from the very basic to advanced technology training certification courses — free until 2004.

To enroll in the ITTI program, one may visit http://mvulearning.mivu.org and follow the "new user" steps.

For more information visit www.mivu.org.

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