Parkside Embraces Workforce Development
by Beth Norris
Posted on 2/22/07
Universities can and must play a vital role
in workforce development. UW Parkside is embracing this opportunity.
As a result, our students are learning, our faculty are becoming
engaged, and our community is tapping into the university’s
reservoir of expertise and passion.
Why is UWP vested in workforce development?
Because the future of our communities depend
upon it. Southeastern Wisconsin is an economy in transition.
Our area is known for strong manufacturing, beautiful natural
resources, and a strong work ethic. But we face challenges—global
competition, urban poverty, brain drain, job loss, and economic
uncertainty. As the world gets smaller, the arena in which
we operate as a university gets larger. Most importantly,
as a university, we have discovered that our relevance is
contingent upon our recognition of our connection to our local
and global communities. Fortunately we have resources to bring
to the table. Therein lies the magic.
What is UW-P doing to contribute to
workforce development efforts?
UW Parkside is helping develop the workforce
in numerous ways, especially in the areas that follow:
UW-Parkside helps lead, staff, and facilitate
the local workforce investment system. The director of the
local workforce board is an employee of the university, the
chancellor is a member of regional and local workforce development
boards, the dean of community engagement chairs a local youth
council, and the university employs key team leaders for a
world renouned one-stop center. This facilitates input, creativity,
and leadership within all levels of the local workforce development
Dialogue based upon research
UWP facilitates research and dialogue on key
workforce topics. As example, Racine, has the lowest educational
attainment rate of 18-24 year old males in the entire state
of Wisconsin. Forty-two percent of this segment of Racine’s
population lack high school diplomas. To help address this
problem, the local workforce board commissioned UW Parkside
to analyze the problem, research solutions, engage the community
in providing input, and help formulate strategies to improve
educational outcomes. The university mobilized faculty, students,
researchers, and numerous community segments—such as
law enforcement, parents, service providers, and dropouts
themselves-- in the research and dialogue initiative.
UWP has adopted engagement as a major focus
of the university’s mission. This is occurring internally,
locally, regionally, and statewide. The university has a dean
position that is specifically dedicated to community engagement
and service learning. Additionally the university provides
an administrative home for Wisconsin Campus Compact, and organization
which seeks to promote post secondary community and civic
engagement efforts across the state of Wisconsin.
Connecting Talent to Business
UWP utilizes internships, class projects,
and centers of excellence within the university to connect
students and teachers to business projects throughout the
area. Through partnership with the Small Business Development
Center and funding through the local workforce system, the
universitie’s best and brightest students in marketing,
accounting, business, and computer systems comprise rapid
response teams. These student teams assist new and expanding
businesses in high growth areas. One of the first students
to participate was hired by one of these companies at a starting
salary of $60,000.
The Key to Success
UW-Parkside is a learning institution. In
other words, we are always learning. When it comes to workforce
development these are the things we are learning. First partnerships
are the key. We do our best work when we listen, respond,
and combine our efforts with other agencies, organizations,
and educational institutions. Second, efforts must be focused.
Finding projects that hone in on specific workforce needs
in areas where we have university expertise and student learning
potential offer the best bang. Choosing our areas of involvement
carefully ensures that our successes will build and our vestedness
will grow. Third and finally, our best efforts align with
broader regional strategies. UW-Parkside is just one institution
among a cadre of top notch universities, technical schools,
and private colleges within the region. The potential that
all these institutions can play in building the future of
southeastern Wisconsin is phenomenal. If we align our efforts
amazing things will continue to happen.
Beth Norris is the Director of Workforce
Development at the University of Wisconsin Parkside.