NOVA electrical engineers continue their train
When Sara Miller hires an employee, she expects to have that employee’s brain for eight hours a day. She also wants her employees to challenge themselves.
Because her business is an electrical engineering firm, Miller knows her employees must be involved in a continuous process of learning about emerging technologies in order for the business to survive. All of which is why education is a top priority at Miller’s business, NOVA Systems, Inc., in Wauwatosa.
No matter what type of business you are in, change is inevitable. Whether it be change in technology or change in management styles, both employers and employees must keep up if their businesses are to last. College and university continuing education programs can serve as a way in which business people can keep themselves and their employees up to date with current technologies and trends, and businesses often provide tuition reimbursement for courses relative to an employee’s work.
Silver Lake College in Manitowoc offers two major off-campus continuing education programs, according to Dr. Alan Heffner, chair of Silver Lake College’s business programs. The Career Directed Program, a degree completion program, is open to individuals who have acquired 45 hours of college credit, at Silver Lake or elsewhere. Most students come in with an associate’s degree or equivalent and are working toward a bachelor’s degree, Heffner says.
The other program is a master’s degree program in Management and Organizational Behavior. With both programs, classes typically meet for four hours, usually 6 to 10 p.m., once a week for eight weeks.
“The courses are designed for working people,” Heffner says. “For people who work and have families, the courses are fairly convenient in that they only meet once a week.”
Although Silver Lake is based in Manitowoc, both programs are offered in several Wisconsin locations including Appleton, Fond du Lac, Madison and Milwaukee. Courses for the Milwaukee program are held at Brookfield Central High School.
“The business environment has changed dramatically over the last 20 years,” Heffner says. “Businesses recognize the need for
“The principles and requirements of
what is necessary to succeed in business
are the same no matter what size
company you have.”
– Ed Koster, Marquette University
people who are comfortable with change, and if you’re continually learning, you will be prepared for change.”
For businesses which may not be fiscally able to implement tuition reimbursement programs, Marquette University offers a service in which instructors from the university go in-house to businesses and facilitate customized training programs to meet the needs of the individual business.
“Small businesses need to continue educating their employees just like larger businesses,” says Ed Koster, assistant director of Marquette’s Continuing Education program. “The principles and requirements of what is necessary to succeed in business are the same no matter what size company you have.”
In addition to the in-house training program, Marquette offers degree completion and certificate programs with classes meeting on weekdays, weekends, and at nights.
Heffner cites two recurring reasons business people have for continuing their education: the need for strong interpersonal skills and the drive to stay competitive.
“Businesses tell us they need managers who can truly deal with people, so in our courses we emphasize communication skills, interpersonal skills, team work and oral presentations,” Heffner says. “We try to build good leaders.”
Miller views continuing education as the vital tool to remaining competitive.
“In this field, the things you learned back when you were an undergraduate or early on in your career may be obsolete today,” Miller says. “Technology changes so quickly that you can never be content with what you know right now.”
NOVA Systems offers full tuition reimbursement to full-time employees enrolled at a public university. For employees wishing to enroll in a private college or university, NOVA will reimburse the employee at the public school cost. Employees must earn at least a “B” grade in their courses in order to qualify for reimbursement. NOVA also pays for the purchase of text books and then keeps them at NOVA for reference.
“A small business may not be able to afford hiring as many people as large businesses can, but you can be just as competitive with a small group of well-educated and talented employees,” Miller says.
Currently, one NOVA employee participates in the company’s tuition reimbursement program. Jason Katch, a design technician, is working toward an electrical engineer associate’s degree at Milwaukee Area Technical College.
“Going to school has made me much more knowledgeable beyond my hands-on experience, and that benefits both NOVA and me careerwise,” Katch says.
Maggie Wieland, NOVA Operations Manager, notes that tuition reimbursement is not the only way to further your employees’ education. NOVA keeps training manuals and CD-ROMs in-house and pays the enrollment costs for job-related seminars and workshops for employees.
“Even though only full-time employees are eligible for tuition reimbursement, any employee can have a work-related seminar paid for,” Wieland says.
While some small businesses may not be able to afford a tuition reimbursement program, sometimes in-house training sessions work just as well as a college course, Wieland says.
April 1998 Small Business Times, Milwaukee
NOVA electrical engineers continue their train