Popular Program

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:35 pm

The project management certificate program is the fastest growing program offered at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Continuing Education. The program is growing rapidly because more companies want to have trained project managers or certified program management professionals on their staff, said Dana LaFontsee, director of corporate development for the UWM SCE.

"More and more companies are realizing that project management can increase customer satisfaction by producing on time and within budget," LaFontsee said. "When companies are looking to gain a competitive advantage, project management is key."

The UWM SCE focuses on non-credit and certification adult education programs that individuals can take when they want to hone their skills, learn more about best business practices and use what they learned to better themselves in the workplace, LaFontsee said.

Project management is a very broad subject and is applied across all industries. With the UWM SCE program, participants can take a single course or an entire series, LaFontsee said.

Students in the program learn about the foundation of project management including: how to build a team, how to manage contracts and vendors, how to manage multiple projects at once, quality control, risk management and how to use management software.

Many graduates of the program have shown increased efficiency and experienced a less stressful environment in their workplaces, LaFontsee said.

"For someone who is a project manager without training in project management, the atmosphere can be one of constant deadlines," LaFontsee said. "Project management teaches the value of a process and taking time to use a method that has proven results."

The most popular project management courses teach how to assess and manage project risks, costs and scheduling, said Nancy Mathews, program director for the UWM SCE.

The project management courses follow the standards set by the Project Management Institute (PMI), which is the leading authority on project management, LaFontsee said.

"It is important for us to partner with PMI because participants will be prepared for becoming a certified project management professional, which they will need certification from PMI to achieve," Mathews said.

The UWM SCE will also customize training programs for specific businesses. Those programs can be taught at the university, or on site at the company’s facility.

"The discipline of project management is a foundation we are able to customize," LaFontsee said. "We can use tools that a company has already developed and focus on a specific industry and business so that everyone in the company is speaking the same language. Everyone is working off of the same knowledge base and can be more efficient."

Programs that are customized and delivered on site are available with any course set that the UWM SCE offers in its brochure, including Six Sigma training, improving business writing and engineering courses, LaFontsee said. UWM will also work with a preferred schedule for the courses.

Tom Pastijn, a business process specialist with Wacker Corp., worked with the UWM SCE to develop an on-site project management series for the entire company. Wacker Corp. is a construction equipment firm based in Germany, with U.S. headquarters in Menomonee Falls.

"Wacker is a progressive company in that it is bringing departments together when training in project management," LaFontsee said. "It allows for all employees to be speaking the same language, using the same approach and working more effectively."

Pastijn inquired about setting up a training program for Wacker’s employees that would combine critical thinking skills with project management.

With 600 employees, Pastijn and UWM SCE program adjunct professors decided to spread out training sessions by only having 25 employees at a time.

"Since we push our employees to think about different departments, we wanted to have each class be from the best possible mix of all departments," Pastijn said. "We wanted employees from manufacturing and field logistics to accounting all in the same room so they can see how other departments operate."

The 25 employees in each class are also split into five work groups for lectures and exercises, Pastijn said. The first class was in October, the second in May and the third will be this fall.

The program is a combination of critical thinking tools that Wacker had already developed for its employees and project management courses from the UWM SCE, including running effective meetings, defining project scope, estimating and scheduling, risk management, how to identify team members and task interdependencies, Pastijn said.

"Any company that is global and wants to stay competitive needs to look at processes and make sure both the customer and internal processes are efficient," Pastijn said.

Wacker took tools from Six Sigma to enable process improvement to help employees define problem statements in business. In the customized training sessions, employees will learn to define clear goals using process mapping techniques and then complete a process by following what Six Sigma calls DMAIC, which stands for define, measure, analyze, improve, control, Pastijn said.

Wacker has trained 44 employees to date in the program, and has already seen them demonstrate more ability to solve problems and tackle large projects, Pastijn said.

"If there are new ways of thinking (within the company), every employee is expected to contribute to that," Pastijn said. "We keep our eyes open to continually improve and to take the best practices methodology and implement it into our own environment."

As the project management series continues to grow in popularity and course offerings, the UWM SCE plans to eventually offer more courses that are concentrated in specific industries, Mathews said.

In the meantime, the school is helping companies decide the best training path for its employees, whether it is single courses, a series, a certificate program, a master’s certificate program or a customized on-site training program. There are multiple benefits to each choice, LaFontsee said.

"With a general course, participants work in small groups where a lot of sharing of ideas and networking takes place, versus an on-site program which is focused on a business and an industry," Mathews said. "It depends on a company’s goals and needs."

August 19, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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