Shifting Gears in a Changing Economy
The face of American business is changing and colleges and institutes of higher education are adapting their curricula to suit the needs of economic trends, globalization and an ever-evolving workforce.
“We have to look at the crest of the wave,” said Dr. Kenneth Vehrkens, dean of Fairleigh Dickinson University’s (FDU) Petrocelli College of Continuing Studies on the Teaneck campus. FDU offers one of the region’s long-established continuing education programs which offer non-credit and/or certificate programs for students outside the mainstream of traditional undergraduate and graduate populations.
“The goal is always to anticipate shifts in the economy and to design programs that will help students re-tool within their current jobs or re-train for new careers,” he said.
Continuing education programs may comprise certificate programs, non-credit course work and employee training sessions in a wide range of fields for both working professionals and folks who are looking to switch career gears.
With certificate courses offered at FDU in programs such as paralegal studies, certified financial planning and human resource management, Vehrkens said students have a world of alternative opportunities.
“Sometimes students will have earned an undergraduate degree but the job market isn’t open in that particular area. Or they may be ready to leave one field and enter another but don’t necessarily have the time or resources to earn another traditional degree,” he said. “These programs offer a wide range of options and potential employment possibilities.”
Vehrkens noted that FDU provides diagnostic placement services to help students determine which path is best for their goals. The school also has established strong relationships with organizations and agencies throughout the state—and beyond—to ensure top-notch hands-on training as well as advanced development practices within corporate settings.
For instance, FDU is collaborating with the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC), a top-rated coach training school that focuses on “human performance and potential.”
“The iPEC program offers a comprehensive and experiential coach training program, and is ideal for business professionals,” Vehrkens said.
GainVille Learning and Training Center in Rutherford recognizes the need to help business professionals and international employees become more comfortable in workplace settings—both in the United States and around the world.
Diala Pharaon, managing director, said the Center offers training courses in several languages, including Italian, Arabic, Mandarin, Russian, Spanish and French.
“The business world is changing,” said Pharaon, “And we definitely saw a need to provide services for people who wish to communicate more effectively.”
Group class sizes are small—no more than 10 students—and are offered in eight or 10 week sessions at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. The cost is $400 per session. Private tutoring and conversation-focused sessions are also available, depending on the specific needs of the student or company.
“In addition to the language itself, we also put a great deal of emphasis on intercultural training within the context of any given industry—the do’s and don’ts of doing business, keywords and phrases, business negotiation and etiquette,” Pharaon said.
GainVille also provides English language training for workers who want to advance in their fields.
“Learning is a lifelong journey and we are passionate about what we do while providing an invaluable service,” Pharaon said.
Christine Gillespie, dean of Continuing Education at Bergen Community College in Paramus, said healthcare programs remain one of the biggest draws, but the focus is shifting as the population ages.
“We are going to offer a new series of programs that involve long-term care and serving the elderly, both for industry professionals who are in the field now and community members who are perhaps faced with family or personal situations,” said Gillespie. “With people living longer, geriatric care is a huge field.”
Gillespie noted that many students enter healthcare programs and realize “they don’t want to touch people. For them, we suggest medical billing and coding or pharmacy technician courses. The field is wide open.”
Other popular programs, Gillespie said, are in advanced manufacturing, a wide variety of licensing and certification programs within the construction field, pest control, and animal control—the only program of its kind in New Jersey.
“Many of our students who enter these programs have work experience in these fields but have not received formal training to obtain licensure, which a lot of employers are now requiring,” she said.
Rosa Diaz-Mulryan, assistant vice president of the Center for Innovative & Professional Learning (CIPL) at Ramapo College in Mahwah, said project management is by far the most sought-after program for adult learners.
“Because it encompasses such a wide range of industries, we get quite a mix of students who are looking to advance their skills and their career potential,” said Diaz-Mulryan.
She explained that the project management program includes four modules of 24 hours each which focus on fundamentals, schedule management, risk and quality management and exam preparation.
“This type of training crosses all industries. We have accountants, music producers, professors who are looking to get into their own business, for instance, who need to learn the basics of managing all different types of projects,” Diaz-Mulryan said. “What they’re learning is how to run a project from beginning to end, how to budget and take their individualized skill sets and translate them into business practices.”
This program also is popular among the unemployed or underemployed, she added.
Ramapo also offers very specific programs such as yoga studies and yoga teacher certification, real estate broker and sales pre-licensing, and personal trainer certificate. The newly launched HTML5 mobile app development certificate is offered online only.
Handling with care
It takes a certain kind of person to enter the realm of the dead, said Dr. Dan Simone, dean of student services and director of mortuary education at Eastwick College in Hackensack. Eastwick is only the second college in New Jersey to offer a degree in mortuary education.
“This is not a morbid field at all, but a reality of life. Our students will be prepared to enter the workforce as funeral directors or to work in various positions in a medical examiner’s office,” said Simone. “The training is very comprehensive.”
Currently, 20 students ranging in age from 22 to 62 are enrolled in a program that takes 24 months during day and 27 months in the evening. It costs about $38,000 and includes course work in chemistry and sciences, cultural diversity, funeral management, psychology, aging and restorative art.
The principals of embalming are taught on campus but practical work is performed in cooperation with area funeral homes. Students work with licensed professionals in treating the deceased, helping to plan funerals, and dealing with families.
“It’s such a unique program and as the population continues to age, demand for this work will increase significantly,” said Simone.
At Felician College, which has campuses in Lodi and Rutherford, students who already hold a bachelor’s degree can return to the classroom to earn a certificate in teacher education in elementary or secondary education.
“It’s a great career change for people of all ages with all sorts of degrees,” said Dr. Rose Rudnitski, dean of the School of Education. “We get many students who find that they feel there’s more to life than sitting at a desk, who want to work with children and contribute in a way that’s morally satisfying. I’ve known stock brokers, lawyers, businessmen and women who feel they have a lot to offer to our young people, and they bring their career experiences with them. They are quite successful in this program.”
Students pursuing a secondary education certification must choose one of five content areas (Math, Biology, Art, History, or English). Students pursuing an elementary education certificate for grades 5 through 8 can choose one of five content areas (English, Math, Social Studies, Science, and Art). Students must earn at least 30 credits in any one area, Rudnitski said.
“One of the attractive features of this program is our diverse course schedule,” Rudnitski said. “People go back to school at different times of their lives, so we offer an array of options.”
Classes are held during the days, evenings and weekends to fit different work schedules and lifestyles. All students must complete a student teaching component that consists of 15 consecutive weeks of full-time teaching five days a week in a school setting.