Skilling Up with Win-Win Employer Partnerships at Maryville University

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Dr. Mark Lombardi, President at Maryville University joins the podcast to talk about the power of co-creating academic programs with local employers vs. insisting our degree programs as-is are the exact match for their upskilling priorities.

You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect e D U podcast network. I'm Eric Olsen with Helix Education and we're here today with Dr Mark Lombardi, president at Maryville University. President Lombardi, welcome to the show. Thank you. It's great to be Eric, great to have you here and so excited to talk with you today about Skilling up and creating win win partnerships with local employers. But before we dig in, can you give the listeners a little background on Maryville University? Sure, Maryal University, we'RE CELEBRATING A hundred...

...and fiftieth anniversary, by the way, this year, which is special. Thank you. A School of over ten thousand students with on multiple platforms, both about three thousand traditional undergraduates here on campus and another seven thousand plus studying online around the United States, actually across six different time zones. We have a comprehensive array of undergraduate, masters and doctoral programs and uh and with the Alabama of East sports we won our fifth collegiate Sports Championship in the last ten years. So you can tell people that you you heard it from the sports or maybe the Alabama is the Maryville College football. There it is. I worked for a small private college in Chicago and we called ourselves the Harvard of the Southwest Chicago suburbs. So I love it. Huge congrats on that and uh the D and fifty year mark. Amazing. President Lombardi, we as...

...colleges and universities, obviously know what's best for employers and their workforce needs. Why listen to them at all when we can just tell them what they need, which is our existing degree programs as they stand? Sounds like you've been sitting in a lot of faculty have. Actually, you know, I I heard that mantra in different ways as a faculty member for many, many years. It never made any sense to me because you know, professions and and and UH and areas of skill development in all the different jobs and professions and careers are constantly evolving and changing and you have to evolve and change with them. Now are professional programs like nursing and physical therapy. Those they do a great job of keeping up with what are the current techniques and strategies and equipment and technologies, but a lot of other disciplines, particularly across areas like business and arts and sciences, traditionally haven't. And so skill development is about listening...

...two employers. It's about listening to businesses and it's about working with them code developing content and curriculum and experiences that meet the needs of those businesses in particularly the needs of our our students and alums and and just work workforce in general and their ability to stay current, to be ahead of the game and to be relevant in their careers. Yeah, so let's talk about listening and that partnership. And then what comes next when you hear what they need, when you're excited about a vision for for helping them up skill, talk about that decision tree between convincing employers on our degree programs when we think they are right fits, versus the extra effort of developing something new, developing certificates specifically for them. Perhaps. How does that value arguments shake out? Well, it really we look at it this way, and this is how we have approach...

...it. We sit down with employers. We got a blank slate. We're not trying to sell them a particular prepackaged product, whether it's a degree or a graduate degree. We're saying, look, blank slate here, tell us what you need, and then, if we have programs, current certificates and badges and other things that can meet those needs, we say here, take a look at this, but if we don't, we say let's sit down and talk about how we can co develop and create exactly what you need to get the results that you need and to meet the metrics that you're looking for, usually recruitment and retention and and upskilling of employees. And then we create that. So it's really coming at it in a in a in a very different way than universities have before, where they're trying to sell a particular degree program the truth is, and most upskilling degrees are not are not important. You've got people who already have some kind of degree or education. It's really upskilling from where they are today to where they need to be tomorrow, and that uh and that it's just a question of ingenuity and creativity and common sense.

Really, yeah, and that blank slate approach sounds correct, especially to the employer, I'm sure, but the better thing is often the much harder thing. At what scale is this program customization for employers actually worth it for our institutions? Well, I think it's tremendously worth it, because what you learn from co creating, uh these kinds of programs with businesses is you learn a tremendous amount about what are the immediate needs and issues of businesses that then can inform the curriculum that you do have, particularly for traditional undergraduates and Grad students who are already in the program. So it's sort of like almost a three D and sixty degree approach where you're you're creating things with it with a business or with a set of businesses and companies that's informing your own curriculum development on campus and and and what you also are able to do is create,...

...essentially think of it as a library of experiences that then can be utilized when you approach other industry. The is it harder work out of the gate? Sure it is, but you know there was an old football coach at Ohio state that said if it's easy, it isn't worth a dam so it should be hard. Personally, I take most of my my coaching advice from an institution that that I call the the Alabama of the sports but, uh well, we'll listen to other coaches as well. You mentioned this. This concept of what we are are traditionally used to providing our students with, may be different than what employees are looking for and maybe different from what employers are looking for. So let's say an employee is most interested in the degree attainment or perhaps a short term credential. Employers may be more interested in funding the specific skilling up to get the immediate payoff on their end. Talk about how stackable credentials might be able to do both. Well, there's a movement in higher...

...and I'm happy to say that Marybell, I think, is at the forefront of this movement, which, for lack of better term, is the modularization of curriculum so that you can break down any discipline in any course into a series of component parts and experiences, any one of two of which really forms the basis for upskilling and potential the basis for badges and certificates and other forms of credentials. And so if you look at curriculum that way across the board, whatever, whether you create or existing, then you begin to be able to provide for workers credentials, experiences and stackable skills. So let's say you go into an industry and we provide a set of skills over a particular year, say three different upskilling programs. They're not credit bearing for a degree, but they're they're those experiences. A student worker can take those, stack those together and earn credit towards a particular degree or whatever the case may be.

I think literally, I think this is going to be the way that most adult learners actually attain other degrees and when they're in the workplace it's not going to be I'm going back to school to get a degree. It's going to be I've done this, I've done this, I've got this upskilling, I've got this experience. You put that together and you've got something that really approaches a degree and get get some pretty close and then they can complete it on their time and at their pace. It's a Beautiful Win Win Vision. President Lombardi, in your opinion, what does what should academic program development look like at its best? What's the combination of faculty governance and corporate input that will result in the highest quality crenchal. Well, I think I'm not the question is a good one and I'm gonna I'm gonna twist it a little bit because I don't think it's a juxtaposition of corporate input and faculty governments. I think...

...it's more a question of well meaning professionals getting together and saying, look, what do people need today and what are they going to need tomorrow, and how do we provide it? How do we design it? In some cases the corporate input is going to be significant and really going to be what what leads that? What what drives it? In other cases there's going to be individual faculty members engaged and involved and they're going to help drive it. We've got a for example, of Sports Business Management Program, the Rowling sports it's second and none, and the head of that program, Jason Williams, has designed an amazing program that is really a great marriage of corporate engagement and input along with UH faculty. So I think it's really more a philosophical question. It's not an either or those two things are not opposites. In fact they are really important elements of this process and there are times when faculty take a...

...ex seat to the corporate needs and vice versa. But if you look at it as a group of people coming together to create something rather than two groups with different viewpoints trying to push something, then you get a lot better results out of it. I think historically faculty have been uh suspicious of working with the corporate sectors in some cases and and and vice versa, and corporate sector has been suspicious because, you know, universities are known from moving very, very slow, and rightly so. That criticism is a justified one. That's why one of the things we did at Maryville to really facilitate all of this is move our university faster. From we've we've designed, developed and begun delivering programs within a six day week time frame. Wow, wow, incredibly impressive. President Lombardi, I love this anthem of CO creation that you're leaving us with. Leave us with any other next steps? Advice for institute is looking...

...to better partner with local employers. Is Co creation the anthem? What should their charge be? I think co creation is the anthem. I think you have to be delivering these programs on largely in an online platform, because trying to gather people together on a Thursday night or Saturday morning for these programs is an antiquated approach. I also think that they're the educational opportunities for institutions around this country are limitless. There are forty six million Americans right now without with some college credit, no degree, who, if they don't get up skilled over the next two, three or four years, their profession is going to pass them by and they're gonna end up losing their jobs. The opportunities, or put in another way, the market is substantial out there and universities, if they're not taking advantage of it, are crazy. We entered this market really strongly about two years ago and we already have over three thousand employees spread...

...across a number of companies in this region who were engaged in taking these programs and, frankly, by the end of next year we'll probably have at least double that number, if not more. Super Impressive. President Lombardi, thank you so much for your time today. What's the best place for listeners to reach out if they have any follow up questions for you or your team? Well, president, at Maryville, Dot e Du is a great way to contact me through email and uh and get on the Maryville works website and you'll learn a lot about that particular program Maryville works, that we have, uh and UH. You know every if you want to pick up the phone and give me a call, feel free. I'm an old phrase, but a good one. I'm in the book. Awesome. President Lombardi, thanks so much for joining us today and here's to the next hundred and fifty years. That's great. Thank you and it's been a been a pleasure. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven,...

...enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges, downloaded today for free at Helix Education Dot Com. Slash playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show on Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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