By Carrie Henderson
Displaced professional workers in the Charlotte region have new reasons to turn to UNC Charlotte (UNCC) for help during these tough economic times.
UNCC developed the University Workforce Development Certificate Programs and Assistance project to connect the university with people and workforce development boards in the region.
“As a university, we wanted to respond to the needs of laid-off workers – many of whom have their bachelors and masters degrees – through the services offered by UNCC and the workforce development boards,” explains Dr. Connie Martin, Director of the Department of Continuing Education, Extension, and Summer Programs. After discussions with alumni, community members and regional agency planners, UNCC developed two ideas to help the region cope with the layoffs: a series of accelerated certificate programs and a new position responsible for focusing university efforts in workforce development.
The accelerated certificate programs are rooted in the idea that displaced professional workers may be looking for ways to increase their chances of getting – and retaining – jobs through additional education, but can’t afford to go back to school for the 12 to 15 months it normally takes to get a graduate certificate. UNCC proposes to accelerate delivery to six to seven months. Similarly, delivery of a continuing education certificate is accelerated to three weeks – much faster than the typical four to nine month period.
Accelerated certificate programs increase the number of hours spent in a classroom in a given week, allowing for displaced workers to attend full-time. Each program also includes special career counseling to be used as another tool to make the student more employable.
The first accelerated certificate program is in project management, which Dr. Martin believes is valuable across a wide spectrum of jobs and responsibilities. Three other accelerated programs will be announced in the coming months.
The second idea under the University Workforce Development Certificate Programs and Assistance project deals with focusing university efforts on workforce development. As a result, UNCC created the Workforce Development Program Manager position.
Diane Gover received her MBA from UNCC and has worked in the field of workforce development for 10 years. She has returned to UNCC to fill the new position and try to establish ongoing relationships with displaced workers and workforce development boards: “One of my main responsibilities is to develop, in consultation with Charlotte-area workforce development boards, accelerated programs and other alternatives for displaced professional workers.”
Gover has made contact with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Gaston County and Centralina workforce development boards to get feedback on the labor market and learn what types of jobs are in demand. The goal of this position is to continually reach out to boards and have an open dialogue about workforce development in the Charlotte region.
The UNCC work is part of a comprehensive response to the needs of the Charlotte region developed at the urging of NC Governor Bev Perdue, and financed in large part through funds designated by her administration to assist the Charlotte region, which is facing the highest levels of unemployment of any of the state’s major metropolitan areas. Funding for the new position and various costs related to the accelerated certificate programs come from the NC Department of Commerce – Workforce Development Division’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) money. The ARRA stimulus money must be spent by December 2010, but UNCC is extending the Workforce Development Program Manager position by another six months. After the 18 months, UNCC hopes to make the position full-time so the university will remain connected to the workforce development boards.
Dr. Martin believes the project aligns with UNC Tomorrow through UNCC’s response and commitment to community development: “We saw an opportunity to redesign the delivery of our education to meet the needs of businesses and professionals. The University Workforce Development Certificate Programs and Assistance project is just one step in addressing short-term needs of the Charlotte region.”
For further information, please contact:
Dr. Connie Martin
Director of the Department of Continuing Education, Extension, and Summer Programs