Staples regional office has begun a curriculum arrangement with the Community College of Aurora that’s replete with information germane to the office supply giant’s push towards specialized management training for its employees.
The course to date already covers a wide spectrum, and there’s still more than a handful of classes expected to be modified and installed within the next 1-2 years.
If only there was something that could help instructor Matt Earnhardt smooth that upcoming process: say, an easy button.
“I should ask for one,” the CCA Business faculty said with a laugh. “I should make that part of my perks package.”
Right now, the benefits still are tangible, not the least of which is the fun Earnhardt is having working with the Staples folks.
The partnership gives CCA additional exposure, while Staples employees receive material applicable to their own unique situation to aid their professional growth.
CCA’s first course at the company began in early September, and comes on the heels of a relationship of about a half-dozen years between the college and Pinnacol Assurance locally.
Staples corporate, located behind Aurora Mall, contacted the college in the early summer in an effort to expand upon a previous arrangement with a Florence, Ky., community college. CCA was more than happy to oblige.
“One of our mandates as a community college is serving the needs of our community,” Business department chair Tamra Schmitt said. “And we’re really able to serve their needs by bringing our course work to their campus.”
The CCA model for this relationship includes keeping core competencies of its regular Business curriculum in place, yet tweaking its courses at the company’s behest to suit Staples’ individualized workplace needs.
Thus, UNIX for programmers was put on the docket. Decision-making with a managerial emphasis was added. Effective workplace communication, conflict resolution and corporate culture became integral facets.
Earnhardt also used aspects of the Myers-Briggs personality test so that employees could learn the most effective communications techniques whether they were judged as introverted or extroverted.
‘We have students in the class with master’s degrees that are still gaining important skills in the class now,” Earnhardt maintained.
Still, while the classes are modified– resume writing, for example, is out — the basics of the CCA courses remain since employees are earning college credits in hopes that students will eventually complete an associate’s degree once the in-office sessions conclude.
Those future disciplines would cover such facets as Accounting, Business Administration, Marketing and Human Resources at CCA.
At the very least, Staples employees completing the coursework will receive an internal management certificate from the company. But those students have had their tuition and books paid by the company, already have built CCA transcripts and will have a large credit base stockpiled once the on-site sessions are complete.
“The ultimate goal is to keep this relationship with Staples indefinitely and not just have the students that are starting now stop but gain enrollment over time and have basically every person at Staples go through this program,” said Earnhardt, who added that some of the finer details of the partnership still are being worked out.
There are 14 people in the initial Staples class.
A side benefit for the college is that Earnhardt is able to bring real-world corporate issues and possible stumbling blocks back into his classrooms.
But the give-and-take has practical applications for Staples employees, too.
“Whenever you can get into a workplace environment, especially one where the students work right there, it’s neat to be in their four walls and I think it gives the material a lot of life,” Earnhardt said. “We can talk theoretical examples all day long but when we’re actually there and they can say, ‘I was sitting in this room and this actually happened,’ it makes a big difference.
“Plus, being over there it’s all Staples students and they can all bounce things off each other. ‘Oh, you went through this; now I understand how you feel because that’s how I saw it.’ ”
One offshoot that Earnhardt hopes occurs with his Staples students, as it has before with Pinnacol, is that the possibility of college is put in play for employees that may never have gotten an education past the high school level or are looking to enhance their degrees.
“I would like to see us have a partnership where eventually we can offer our students here internships over there. … Or maybe they see the level of instruction here and they open up jobs over there and the first people they consider is our students.” Earnhardt said. Personally, that’s why I wanted to pursue this and why we wanted to pursue this was anything we can do to make our students here more successful and at Staples, it’s a win-win.