GRCC Reaches Past Manufacturing

August 2, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — Reacting to changes within the West Michigan workplace, Grand Rapids Community College last month officially changed the name of its Business and Technical Training department to Training Solutions and launched an expansion to match its new moniker.

"We thought that the name limited us in the scope of what we could do," said Matt Molter, the program manager. "At least, it limited us in the perception of what we could do."

GRCC's noncredit work-force training program has long offered highly regarded certification courses in such areas as machining, tooling, plastics and quality science, among others, for companies like Lacks Enterprises and Steelcase as well as individual students, but had always kept within the realm of manufacturing.

"We've over the years offered some excellent training in the area of manufacturing," Molter said.

"But as there is less and less manufacturing, training becomes less of a priority. We knew that we had to expand. We're taking all of our eggs out of one basket, so to speak."

This summer, GRCC began aligning partners and training consultants to offer high-end IT training solutions.

"IT is a whole new focus for us," Molter said. "It's always been manufacturing and industry before."

Focusing primarily on Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) and Linux certifications, with courses in Cisco, Oracle and other applications to eventually be offered, the noncredit programs will be aimed toward both displaced workers and corporations looking to upgrade their IT capabilities.

Molter said the certifications, available primarily in advanced applications, will make people more marketable in the workplace, whether they are displaced workers, employees looking for an upgraded certification, or students fresh out of high school looking for technical employment.

Even technologically savvy companies can find value in increasing their count of certified technicians. For instance, Microsoft partner status requires providers to have a certain number of certified technicians or engineers on staff. Often, the number and complexity of these certifications changes, creating training needs for even IT leaders.

As in its manufacturing and industrial training, GRCC says it will seek to customize training solutions for each company or sets of students.

"We don't want to just take something off the shelf for them," Molter said.

"We want to give companies the training or solutions that best fit the needs they are looking for. Sometimes in our needs assessments, we discover that companies might not even need training. They need other problems resolved, like cultural problems, for instance, and we'll try our best to fill those needs."

According to Molter, different companies have different needs and measure success or failure in different ways.

Through the consulting services also offered through GRCC Training Solutions, he said, those needs and the best way to achieve them are assessed.

For some companies, he said, the solution might be a certification program for key employees; for others it might be a block of training courses accompanying a software upgrade.

One program that Molter expects to be in demand is a training course on the migration of companies' software into Windows 2003, which will be offered in a seminar in September.

GRCC showcased its IT training last week with a seminar featuring a debate about the preference between the Microsoft .net and Java platforms. Representatives of Kalamazoo-based Blue Granite argued for .net, while Curt Buckley of Chicago's Greenbrier & Russel supported Java.

Other consultants working within the GRCC training program will be Ottawa Interactive's Andy Caitlin, founder of New York Microsoft Gold Partner Citigate Hudson.

The flexibility of the program's scheduling reflects the diversity of markets that GRCC is hoping to attract. The college can offer courses in day or weeklong blocks or split up over several weeks.

Separate from GRCC's degree-oriented programs, Training Solutions' IT courses are similar to those offered by CPR Inc. or New Horizons.

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