In the current marketplace, South Jersey businesses are finding that investing in their employees with opportunities like refresher courses and new skills training is worth the cost by keeping employees at the top of their game, and the effort is paying off in the form of a highly skilled labor pool.
Whether it’s through tuition reimbursement programs, internal workshops or outside training courses, there’s a plethora of options out there for employers to utilize.
Companies like South Jersey Industries (SJI) offer tuition reimbursement when courses are taken at accredited colleges. SJI also offers both in-house and external training on a variety of topics.
“We periodically offer technical skills training as well as soft skills training with topics like conflict resolution, time management, and leadership,” says SJI’s Director of Human Resources Kathleen Carl. “We also offer an industry-specific certificate program which provides a detailed look at the regulated gas industry.”
New Jersey American Water utilizes training through the STAR 12 program, which is offered through Rockhurst University’s Continuing Education Center out of Kansas City, Mo. “The program includes a wide range of learning and development opportunities through classroom learning or even audio books you can borrow,” says Shari Ruchalski, manager of learning and organization development at New Jersey American Water. “There’s a range of technical training, computer training, and even soft skills like conflict management and leadership.”
Internally, Ruchalski says the company is always doing a number of safety training seminars and compliance training as well. “We go above and beyond what OSHA requires so that our employees are always refreshed and learning something new.”
Many businesses are also taking advantage of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association’s Basic Skills Workforce Training Program, which is available for free to employers and their employees through some of the area’s community colleges. Now in its fifth year, the program has delivered 3,125 classes with 35,470 employees having participated in sharpening their skills.
“We’ve served every county in South Jersey,” says Bob Rosa, chief operations officer for the New Jersey Community College Consortium for Workforce and Economic Development. “Though tuition is paid under the New Jersey Department of Labor, companies are still paying their employees while they’re in class so it’s still a use of company resources. But they’re finding that investment to be worth it.
“Computer training courses have been popular but the biggest category might be customer service training. We’ve seen a tremendous amount of interest in it. Employers recognize that their employees are the face of the company.”
At Burlington County College (BCC), customer service training has definitely been the top pick, says Ketan Gandhi, dean of the Corporate College for BCC. “We’re finding that employers really like that they are able to customize a curriculum to their company so that when employees take the course they will see their own company’s policy and ethics weaved into it,” says Gandhi. “Many of the companies are starting with their executive team and then putting employees through it.”
That was the approach Marlton-based Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice took through their BCC training.
“Our leadership and management took it first so that we were very familiar with what our employees would be hearing,” says Barbara Sheppard, director of quality and compliance. “That also allowed us to give some feedback to the facilitators about what we wanted incorporated into the training. It’s not just a canned course. There are some standard customer service skills that apply to everyone, but they also gave us the opportunity to focus on issues that were specifically related to Samaritan.”
Sheppard says the non-profit organization has always prided itself on good customer service but wanted to ensure employees were being consistent in their message. “We wanted to be sure that no matter who from Samaritan was being interacted with, that we could always expect the same high-quality predictable experience,” she explains.
Commitment to Development
Carol McCormick, who heads up the training program at Camden County College (CCC) as senior account executive for the Corporate Training Institute, says participation in the program shows an employer’s commitment to employee development. “It also provides the employees with an opportunity to enhance their skills so they can better perform their roles and tasks. If they’re better skilled, they have more opportunity for advancement within the organization, making it a win-win for everyone.”
In Florence, Ready Pac Foods, Inc. employees have participated in Basic Skills Workforce Training courses at CCC in topics like English and Spanish, Excel training, as well as specific business topics like Introduction to Supervision, Delegating and Team Building. “As an organization, we realize the importance of training and developing our associates,” says Tristan Simpson, Ready Pac spokeswoman. “We believe that enhancing their skills, capabilities and knowledge will assist them in becoming more efficient and productive.”
A big push for education and career development inspired a group from American Autowire in Bellmawr to participate in a leadership training course at CCC. Janelle Silvers, vice president of Finance and Human Resources, says that The Extraordinary Leader course covered 16 key competencies and five fatal flaws for leaders, which she found incredibly helpful. “It really forced each individual to look at their strengths and weaknesses, to identify where they need to focus for improvement, and to really judge if they are capable of becoming great leaders,” she says.
Last year, Gloucester Terminals, LLC, initiated “Gloucester University” as an opportunity to invest in employees. This included an expansion of internal education programs as well as classes through CCC taken along with sister company Holt Logistics. “This investment in our biggest resource—our personnel—ensured our successful results over 2012’s busy season versus last year’s,” says Peter J. Inskeep, manager of operations for Gloucester Terminals. “We received multiple comments on our improved key performance indicators from our customers and our service was complimented on various aspects.”
Clearly, South Jersey businesses are dedicated to producing some of the very best employees in the market. Rosa adds: “Companies want to improve their employees’ skills in a number of ways. They understand that in this market, even writing skills and the grammar used in an e-mail are important. Participating in these courses shows employers’ understanding of the value of well-trained employees.”
Business Consultant Directory
Burlington County College Corporate College
Camden County College Corporate Training Institute
CEM HR Strategies, Inc.
DLC Technology Solutions, Inc.
FYI Business Consulting
Masso-Torrence Wealth Management
New Jersey Community College Consortium for Workforce and Economic Development
SHM Financial Group
Waytek-Premier IT Services
Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Biz, Volume 2, Issue 5 (May, 2012).
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