Published on 2012/09/11
A successful contract training program requires an entrepreneurial educational model with highly-qualified staff who can carry out projects in short time periods. However, a successful program will benefit the institution and local businesses long after the contract expires.

Universities and community colleges may want to consider adding contract training to their existing programs as a way to increase educational partnerships with companies and government agencies in their community. Contract training can also add a much-needed new revenue stream to universities and community colleges.

So what is contract training?

It is credit and non-credit workforce training programs that are created in partnership with businesses and government agencies. The program content is developed by subject matter experts (SMEs) from either the business and/or the school and is tailored specifically for the business or agency employees.

Why would a business or government agency contact the school for contract training?

Often businesses may not have the in-house expertise to design and development quality curriculum using adult learning principles and new instructional technologies. Universities and community colleges often have Continuing Education departments or other units that do have instructional designers and professional trainers that are experienced in developing quality training materials and programs.

What types of workforce training programs are developed by schools?

Common training programs include leadership, customer service, quality management, project management, manufacturing, IT certifications, etc. Each region has unique businesses with their specific training requirements. The training is created in alignment with the business or agency’s mission and business processes. Training may include examples, processes, procedures, case studies and data directly from the business or agency to make the training extremely relevant.

What types of training methods are used to develop these contract training programs?

Schools with professional training staff can create a variety of quality training programs to enhance employee learning for enhanced job performance. Instructor-led classroom training, online training, coaching, blended instruction, and on-the-job training are types of instructional interventions that are often used. The exact type of instructional program created is based on the business requirements.

What are the expectations of businesses and agencies of schools?

Schools must “think” like a business. They must have a real understanding of what businesses do. The school’s staff needs to listen to the businesses and create programs in collaboration. Businesses have their unique company expertise that needs to be incorporated into the training. Businesses and agencies want practical training – not academic theory. They want instructors with “real world” knowledge and skills. They want programs created in a short timeframe, delivered at times and in modules that work for the business. They often want training delivered onsite at the business location.

What are important elements needed for launching a successful contract training program in your university or community college?

First of all, the school leadership must support this entrepreneurial unit and allow it to bring the two worlds of business and education together. The benefit is to be able to serve educational and workforce development needs of your community by creating and delivering quality programs and services while making a profit.

The right staffing of the contract training unit is critical. You need to have staff with a combination of strong instructional, organizational, and sales skills. The staff must have an entrepreneurial attitude and like to network in the community. Staff must keep up-to-date on new companies moving to your area to promote contract services. They need to learn about business and workforce training needs in your area. Your staff will want to attend professional associations, user groups, and chamber meetings to meet business leaders in your community to promote your school’s contract training services. They may want to serve on relevant training, workforce, and economic development committees and boards.

What are the challenges of launching a successful contract training program in your school?

There can be significant barriers in launching a new Contract training program in a university or community college. Many of the customized training programs that businesses want are non-credit skills-based programs. Schools, especially universities, may not consider these non-academic programs as rigorous education. There may be a perception that these workforce training programs are not at the same caliber as the school’s traditional academic courses. Another common barrier is that most schools are not able to pay bonuses and commissions to their contract training sales staff. Generally, sales staff are used to this type of salary structure. It may be difficult to find a quality sales person who will accept a position without bonuses or a commission. Another common challenge is using higher education professors for your contract training programs. These professors are often not used to being flexible in creating new courses in a short timeframe and then teaching classes without a lot of theory. To be successful, a contract training program needs to be supported and allowed to run differently from a traditional academic school program.

In summary, contract training programs can provide new opportunities to work closer with businesses and government agencies in your local community as well as provide a new source of income for your university or community college. However, contract training programs do require an entrepreneurial educational model with highly qualified staff and instructors that are able to create and deliver high quality training programs in a short time period. The benefits to your school and to businesses in your community will have a lasting impact.

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Readers Comments

Yvonne Laperriere 2012/09/11 at 10:01 am

Is it valuable for these units to develop expertise in areas that are not necessarily in high demand locally?

After all, with the growth of elearning, shouldn’t colleges and universities begin seeking out training contracts with corporations elsewhere in the country and across the globe? If we’re talking about expanding revenue streams, why not really make a go of it?

Frank Gowen 2012/09/11 at 1:23 pm

Yvonne, I see where you’re coming from but I don’t think it’s advisable for institutions to go that route. Frankly, institutions in the local areas of the businesses in question will already have expertise and competencies developed in those areas and, if they haven’t, after losing business to an out-of-state institution odds are they will develop that subject matter expertise and try to win the next contract.

It doesn’t seem sustainable to develop expertise in areas that aren’t in demand locally

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