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UCM Meets the Workforce Challenges of Evolving Industries in Partnership with the Full Employment Council

The Missouri Innovation Campus

By Ruth Dickson, July 30, 2018

Inside the walls of the Full Employment Council building, located in the heart of Kansas City, something remarkable is happening. Led by Clyde McQueen, CEO of 32 years, this office serves 40,000 people annually and, in addition to helping individuals find employment, also serves as a convener for the development of training programs. These programs specifically train job-ready skills to reduce the skills gap in the Kansas City market, identified by local employers, and are facilitated by the University of Central Missouri in the state-of-the-art Missouri Innovation Campus in Lee’s Summit.


The partnership is one that some might consider unusual: a three-way collaboration between a public workforce system, employers and industry associations, and a higher education institution; but it’s a model that has worked effectively since 2005, when UCM and the FEC first partnered on a security guard training program in cooperation with security firm Pinkerton Security. Since that first program, many more certificate programs have been developed, with some programs exceeding many hundreds of graduates over multiple years.


These certificate programs, developed for in-demand, high-growth industries such as healthcare and information technology, are taught by employer-based faculty, and are a result of FEC’s vision and UCM’s long-standing commitment to providing accessible education to any individual that seeks it. Scott Boyce, a representative of Workforce Development at UCM, explains how important these opportunities are for program graduates:


“These certificates allow individuals who are underserved, or who have barriers to work, an opportunity to gain an employer-recognized credential to launch or re-start a family-sustaining career.” Crucially, these certificates also train soft skills such as Communicating for Success and Self-Leadership in addition to technical curriculum to ensure each graduate is fully prepared for the challenge of their new career. “It’s the complete training of the individual that is so unique in this approach,” Boyce continues, “most colleges don’t provide soft skills as part of a curriculum, but we aggregate technical skills, soft skills, and workforce readiness to provide an experience students can’t find elsewhere.” 


For Clyde McQueen and his team at the Full Employment Council, the challenge frequently faced is meeting the need for just-in-time solutions to industry challenges.


“Things change very rapidly, so something that may have been a business model even 12 or 18 months ago can be outdated, so that puts a strain on businesses trying to stay competitive in a global market,” McQueen explains; adding when a company discovers a skills gap in their organization or industry, the need for new talent is an immediate one, “If you don’t have the right workforce, you can’t meet the production demands of the industry because you can only produce as much product as you are able to staff.” To meet these demands, the challenge for employers becomes accessing a talent pool with industry-relevant skills so that they can re-skill their workforce and stay competitive, for job seekers, the challenge is finding skills training that provides real-time industry insight, so that employees are equipped to meet the challenges of their new roles.


To ensure that the certificates issued by UCM meet the demands of both the employer and the job seeker, the FEC and UCM developed a model for recruiting faculty talent to ensure the curriculum is a direct reflection of the needs of the current workforce.


“We wanted a different model, where we use a combination of work-based learning and classroom instruction, [and] we could identify an instructor that could work with us in making the classroom more relevant to the workplace itself. One of the innovative business practices that we worked with in partnership with UCM was to find instructors that were familiar with the market how it presently stands, not 15 years ago,” McQueen says, and this is where the role of industry partners is crucial, as the instructors teaching these highly specialized, technical curriculum are often working professionals currently employed by the organizations seeking a new skilled workforce. The role of these skilled instructors is pivotal, as they work seamlessly as part of the FEC-convened partnership to deliver the curriculum developed by UCM, and train the talent they need to future-proof their own organizations and industries.


The result is that UCM can meet the needs of high-growth industries in as little as a month once a skills gap is identified. This workforce development model is progressive when compared to traditional academic calendars, as it is created to re-skill workers rapidly and at the point that employers are seeking new talent. For the FEC, this is a crucial link in the development of successful workforce training:


“When we work with UCM our whole approach is to accelerate the training and education calendar,” McQueen explains, “because many employers are frustrated at the rate in which skilled persons exit the training and education system”. This accelerated approach has allowed UCM and FEC to partner on many large-scale, large-impact, just-in-time training solutions. The future of this partnership is limitless, as the FEC continues to identify the crucial skills gaps that exist within our local employers, and future initiatives include an upcoming product series that focuses on the need for bilingual workforce talent in IT and office support roles. Developed in conjunction with the Hispanic Economic Development Corporation and FEC, UCM is starting facilitation of a new certificate project on Bilingual Computer Support Specialist training in August 2018, with further certificates planned for the immediate future.


For UCM, the goal is always to provide access to education where it is needed. By continuing to provide training and support to underserved individuals, the UCM and FEC partnership is one that benefits the entire Kansas City community. For McQueen, Boyce and their colleagues, whether it’s within the walls of the busy, brightly decorated conference room at the FEC, or the cutting-edge classrooms of UCM - Lee’s Summit’s space at the Missouri Innovation Campus, this partnership will continue, united in a common goal to serve students who seek new opportunities, and employers who look for agile education products to meet their rapidly evolving workforce needs.


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