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Fall 2002 l Capital University Journal

Continuing education offers a competitive edge
story by Allison L. Shaw
photo by Sherry Mark

Photo of Napa HallWhen Napa Hall officially opens in January, Sac State’s College of Continuing Education (formerly Regional & Continuing Education) will take up residence on campus and bring a client-consultation approach to higher education.

Building for the future
One year ago, Sac State’s land between Folsom Boulevard and State University Drive South was just a gravel parking lot. It will soon be home to the College of Continuing Education’s new state-of-the-art learning facility.

The 34,000 square-foot building, designed by Dreyfuss & Blackford Architects and built by Harbison Mahoney Higgens Builders, has seven classrooms, four hands-on computer labs and five conference rooms, as well as offices.

“It is our intent and goal to utilize this building not only as a home for our programs and staff, but also as a visual and tangible symbol of our connection with the CSUS campus and the greater Sacramento community,” says Alice Tom, dean of the College of Continuing Education.

The College offers a variety of professional development courses. Formal admission to Sac State is not required for most of the College’s programs, and the programs are not publicly funded—class fees cover the cost of instruction and administration.

Building on the past
The first Sac State continuing education courses were offered in 1951 and focused on courses for K-12 teachers. There were about 100 courses.

Today the College of Continuing Education offers about 1,500 public professional development courses with about 15,000 enrollments. To keep pace with the needs of the local workforce, the College has expanded its program to cover areas including business operations, organizational development, information technology, health and human services, education, test preparation, criminal justice, management and executive leadership, international business training and English as a second language.

As more adult learners pursue professional development courses and degree completion options, Tom has noticed a trend. “We find that our students enroll in continuing education courses for a variety of reasons,” she explains, “but their shared theme is a desire to remain competitive in their field.”

The College has its work cut out for it. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 70 percent of the coming decade’s fastest-growing jobs require post-secondary education. Working adults will have to “learn more and learn more often” to compete.

Building on success
Continuing education appeals to adult learners with flexible schedules, the real-world experience of the College’s instructors and a hands-on approach.

“I have learned so much in the library media program,” says Suzanne Covington, a library tech supervisor at Gold Trail Elementary School in El Dorado County. “It was very hands-on and practical.”

For Larrilyn Davenport, who recently completed the contract administration certificate program, instructors were key. She says, “Each of the instructors provided valuable information and tools to navigate a broad and complex field.”

In addition to certificate programs, conferences and workshops, the College of Continuing Education has a bachelor of vocational education (BVE) program, which allows working adults to pursue a Sac State bachelor’s degree by earning college credit for work experience.

For Kim Dicus of Vallejo, earning a BVE degree moved her from being a high school secretary to teaching in the school’s regional occupation program. “Getting my degree has really helped me feel capable,” explains Dicus. “I am finally fulfilling a personal goal and the BVE degree has opened up a lot of doors for me, including an increase in income.”

Building solutions
The College of Continuing Education is moving toward a client-consultation model of education. Whether that client is an individual in a certificate program or a multi-billion dollar organization looking for leadership development, the goal is the same: high quality education that meets the client’s need.

“We don’t tell people how to do things,” explains Tom, the College’s dean. “We listen to them and then help them reach their goals. We try to find education solutions that will work for them.”

That flexibility has made development specialists at the College of Continuing Education into workforce development partners for the Sacramento Region. This fall, the College launched six new programs.

“The analytical skills certificate program is a reflection of what government and agency training professionals are asking for,” says Jenni Helfrich, director of the College’s business and technology programs. “It’s a program that focuses on building the core competencies of an analyst at any level within an organization.”

The new community college leadership program is designed to meet the growing need for leadership in California’s community colleges.

“The professional development opportunities and benefits of discussing leadership issues with colleagues – and the fact that prior to this program people had to travel out of state to get this kind of training – makes this program a very exciting opportunity,” says Brice Harris, chancellor of the Los Rios Community College District and one of the program’s two moderators.

In the information technology field, the College has two new programs focused on managing technology professionals and information security.

The effort goes beyond the city limits, with programs like the Dropout prevention specialist certificate, which is offered in six cities throughout California, and the professional language programs, which bring international professionals to Sacramento.

As the College branches out into a more client-centered approach to education, private contracts are becoming more important. Contract and corporate education allows employers to offer the most flexible, cost-effective and personalized education opportunities to their employees.

“Our goal is to bring the breadth of the College of Continuing Education’s professional development training and business consulting services to the corporate sector,” says Jan Geiger, director of contract education.

The College has a long-standing tradition of providing quality education for such clients as Aerojet, American Red Cross, Apple Computer, Bank of America, Blue Shield, Caltrans, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, KVIE-TV6, SMUD, and Vision Service Plan as well as city and county offices, school districts and state agencies throughout California.

Through its conference and training services group, the College offers a full portfolio of service to state agencies as well. The group facilitates about 150 statewide projects each year.

Building bridges
“Continuing education is cutting-edge for the University,” says Sac State President Donald R. Gerth. “It is an arena where new programs can be developed and the closest relationships can be formed between the University and the people of the community.”

Details: (916) 278-4433.

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