Bringing College to the Workplace

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Pima_college_workplacePima partners with area companies for a better educated workforce

To boost careers and build the economy, Pima Community College brings employee education and training to the workplace and offers custom programs on campus and online.

PCC Workforce and Business Development, which is based at Community Campus, designs courses, hires instructors and creates the curriculum for businesses and organizations of all sizes throughout southern Arizona.

“Everything we do is geared to help employees, companies and the local economy. Internally, we are bringing new students to PCC and we are fine-tuning our programs to meet businesses’ specific needs,” said Stan Steinman, Pima’s dean of Workforce and Business Development.

Two area companies, GEICO (Government Employees Insurance Company) and Tucson Electric Power (TEP), have long-standing workplace education and training partnerships with PCC.

At GEICO’s regional office in Tucson, hundreds of employees — called associates — have taken advantage of onsite business courses through PCC.

GEICO needs “to teach associates about business, and we’ve partnered with PCC to bring that training on site,” said Beatrice Campbell, GEICO’s human resources director.

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Since 2007, more than 700 GEICO employees have taken classes onsite, said Solera Valdez, GEICO’s human resources administrator. In 2014, GEICO had its largest program enrollment ever — 168 participants.

“As long as associates attend and pass the class, the tuition is paid for by GEICO,” Valdez said.

Campbell has first-hand experience with the collaboration. She earned a PCC Associate Degree in Business in 2012, completing most of the courses at GEICO. She also took some classes on campus and online. Now she is pursuing a certificate in Human Resources through PimaOnline.

PCC course offerings at GEICO include accounting, business law, finance, economics, and statistics and marketing. In the spring and fall, associates can take three classes over a 16-week “semester.” In the summer, they attend one class twice a week.

PCC advisors provide onsite education counseling and help associates who wish to continue their studies at a four-year institution.

“Our associates want their education. It’s just fantastic to be able to partner with PCC to bring these courses on site,” Campbell said.

At TEP, the path from apprentice to journeyman requires years of specialized training depending on the craft — line repair, metering technician and shop electrician, for example. TEP now offers an additional credential for those who successfully complete the program — an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree from PCC.

From an initial cohort of 16 employees, seven have completed the necessary training and requirements for an AAS degree.

During the first year, participants are considered pre-apprentices and take general education courses taught by PCC instructors at a PCC campus. After completing the pre-apprentice program, participants spend the next three to four years learning their different crafts on the job at TEP as full-fledged apprentices.

Participants also take two classes per semester onsite after work hours. Classes convene at TEP twice a week for about two hours each, explained Ernie Ortiz, TEP training supervisor. PCC awards credits for these non-traditional classes toward the AAS degree.

Line repair technician Jason Milne is in the second year of the TEP Apprentice Program. He joined the company about two years ago after a 15-year career as a construction supervisor.

“Getting an associate degree will be a great accomplishment. I feel like I will have completed something I started,” he said.

While the program is still too new to fully evaluate, TEP expects future journeymen to graduate from the program with a broader skill set that places greater emphasis on written communication, mathematics, fundamentals of electric theory and other academic subjects.

“When they complete the program, our employees walk away with a journeyman’s card recognized by the state and an AAS degree,” said Roger Hall, TEP superintendent of safety, training and standards. CF

PCC Workforce and Business Development offers credit, noncredit and continuing education units (CEU) programs. The College also offers Education to Go, (ed2go) with online courses in many disciplines. For more information, call (520) 206-6591, or visit www.pima.edu/business-industry/custom-training-programs/contact-us.html.

- Jodi Goalstone

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