MATC program helps employees learn, hone management skills
Mark Wenzel holds a degree in architecture from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. But as a production and facility manager for Danfoss Inc. in Milwaukee, he felt the need for more business management knowledge.
He’s been getting that knowledge through the Forward Management program at Milwaukee Area Technical College — a program that will start its 13th year this fall.
"It’s an exceptional program for adults looking for more education in leadership and management," says Wenzel, who needs just one more class to complete the MATC program. "There’s no fluff to it. You can apply everything you learn to your own job. In fact, class projects are based on our on-the-job problems, so we can take solutions back to work."
MATC serves about 60,000 students per year who attend its four campuses, numerous evening centers and distance-learning programs.
Among approximately 170 different degree and certificate programs, the school offers Forward Management, a program for working adults who feel the need to improve their management skills. That specific course of study leads to an Associate of Applied Science in Supervisory Management degree.
The program is taught at MATC’s North and South campuses in Mequon and Oak Creek and is composed of an accelerated series of evening courses scheduled back to back. By attending one class per week, year-round, students can earn their degrees in two-and-a-half years.
Wenzel decided to go through the program because, even though he had earned a degree in architecture from UWM, he didn’t have one in business management. "I wanted to gain the knowledge and experience in this area because it would be beneficial to my job. The program has been extremely good in preparing me for things I encounter here at Danfoss. It’s a real knowledge transfer – doing while learning; applying what we learn in a hands-on environment."
He says the instructors are working professionals in their fields, not full-time teachers. "They are real life, hands-on people teaching, real-life hands on methods."
According to Michael Halloran, MATC instructor and program coordinator, the curriculum includes six-week sections covering 14 core subjects: supervision, personal skills for supervisors, managerial communications, business organization and management, human resources management, legal issues for supervisors and leadership development.
Courses in diversity and change management, team building and problem solving, math processes, business finance and budgeting, project management, managing for quality, and safety in the workplace round out the rest of the program.
In addition to the core subjects, classes in microcomputers in business, English, psychology, economics, and sociology are also required to earn the degree, but can be scheduled at the students’ convenience.
"The program will be 13 years old in September," says Halloran, "and was started at the request of Milwaukee businesses that saw a need for better management. We consulted with them and designed it for entry-level personnel, supervisors and mid-level managers who wish improve their management skills. And we set up a 13-member advisory council representing Milwaukee companies. We meet regularly with to get their important input," he says.
According to Halloran, classes meet four hours one night a week or on Saturday mornings. Because the classes meet year round they aren’t restricted by the traditional college calendar.
"While students spend less time in class, they spend more time in independent and group study. They get to learn and study with other experienced workers and are exposed to their knowledge and expertise, which makes it an important component of the learning process," he says.
"All of the training and education is keyed to developing leadership, facilitation and team skills," he explains.
Halloran says that 35 groups, composed of about 25 people each, have gone through the program in its 13-year existence. The average student is 35 years old, but younger students and some who were 60 or older have earned their associate’s degrees.
"We’ve got a proven track record of student achievement," he says. "More than half of our Forward Management participants move on to a four-year college after they complete their associate degree. Private four-year colleges in the area accept the program’s credits.
"This program is a commitment that can definitely pay off," says Halloran. "We recently graduated a woman who worked for an insurance company. They recognized her progress in our program by promoting her three times."
Christine Brogli is another program participant. She’s about half-way through and thinks the course of study is "excellent." Brogli, an office manager at Lakeside Stoneworks in Cedarburg, says she’s a working adult with a family.
"This scheduling of the classes allows me to get an education and still have a family life. I’m finding the program to be extremely beneficial; I’ve learned a lot. I’m gaining knowledge on how to be a better manager, how to motivate individuals, how to handle conflict," Brogli says.
"And it’s a way for me to network with similar individuals going through the course. I’ve developed some good friendships. I can call on them with problems for their input. I did so recently with a human resources problem here and they gave me helpful ideas.
"The program is very satisfying and it’s challenging me personally and professionally," Brogli says.
Brogli says she is now planning on going on to a four-year college to earn her degree, she says.
Aug. 22, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee, by Jodan Fox, for SBT