Area Educators Adopt New Approaches to Workforce Training

Two new initiatives by Daytona State College (DSC) and Stetson University are prime examples of how area educators are collaborating with business and industry to help prepare the working professionals of the new decade and beyond. 

DSC’s newest alliance with Halifax Health is aimed primarily at moving nursing and allied health program students through the workforce training pipeline and into jobs at the medical center. Stetson’s Professional and Corporate Education (PACE) program, on the other hand, is realigning its strategic goals and expanding course offerings to serve currently working managerial and executive professionals.

Halifax Health and Daytona State officials in December announced the establishment of a Halifax Health Scholarship Fund, providing a unique opportunity for students pursuing nursing and other healthcare-related degrees. Halifax Health will provide $500,000 to the Foundation in increments of $100,000 annually over five years to fund the scholarships. The awards will cover all tuition and fees each semester a student is enrolled, with a guarantee of employment with Halifax Health or one of its affiliates for scholarship recipients upon graduation.

Students may begin applying for the scholarships in the spring 2020 term.

The alliance is the first of what DSC has dubbed “Education to Employment,” which the college’s Foundation Executive Director Tim Norton hopes will serve as a model for other partnerships between the DSC and local employers.

“That’s the bigger idea,” he noted, “to take this program with Halifax Health and apply it to other industries that can benefit from doing something similar.”

In recognition of the new collaboration, Daytona State has designated Halifax Health as the “Official Healthcare Provider of Daytona State College Athletics” for five years and also assigned naming rights to what is now the Halifax Health Softball Stadium. The women’s softball stadium is one of four varsity sports facilities located on DSC’s Daytona Beach Campus. Others include a gymnasium, where men’s and women’s basketball and women’s volleyball contests take place, a men’s baseball facility, and DSC’s 800-seat stadium completed in 2017 to house men’s and women’s soccer.

“Halifax Health represents opportunity to so many in our area,” said its President and CEO Jeff Feasel. “Every year we provide scholarships for our team members to enhance their education. This program with Daytona State College, Education to Employment, is a great way for us to build a sustainable pipeline of life-saving care givers and increase the economic vitality of our area.”

DSC President Tom LoBasso echoed Feasel’s remarks. “By working together to provide both educational and employment opportunities, we’re able to address the needs of our local communities by filling critical healthcare positions with home-grown talent,” he said. “Daytona State College and Halifax Health have enjoyed a long and successful partnership for many years, and we’re confident that this new scholarship will provide long-term benefits for everyone.”

On Volusia’s westside, Stetson University this summer named Bud Hanson executive director of PACE. Hanson brings more than 25 years of strategic business and marketing experience to the university as it moves to realign PACE’s mission.

Hanson envisions a two-prong approach to reaching PACE’s strategic goals, starting first with an expansion of what he calls tactical, executional-type skills course offerings in areas such as information technology, project management, Six Sigma, data analytics and financial technology. Many courses will be taught by Stetson’s own faculty and delivered in various modalities, including face-to-face and online.

The idea, said Hanson, is to target working professionals who must fill certain skills gaps in order to meet job requirements.

“What we have found in our polling of the area’s workforce is that graduates are coming into their jobs with a certain set of skills; however, what we are seeing, driven mostly by technology, is that those skills have a much shorter lifespan than they did, say, even 10 years ago,” he said. “So even if you are coming in totally trained, you’ll need to be up-skilled or you’ll end up with certain skills gaps. What we are finding is that because the technology is creeping up so fast, employers are not looking for new graduates with those skills, they are looking to take the good folks they already have and close the skills gap with some training.”

Likewise, he added, learners coming out of the business community don’t want to come back for a complete degree, they just want what they need when they need it. “Many are not looking for credits or degrees, just that chunk of knowledge they need to progress in their careers.”

A second tier of short-term PACE course offerings being developed will target middle- and senior-level managers and executives and focus on areas such as executive leadership, women in leadership, corporate culture and sustainability, negotiation tactics and leading virtual teams, to name just a few. “These are not exactly hard skills training programs like Project Management, where there is a rigorous and prescriptive curriculum that leads the student to earn a certificate or credential, he noted. “These courses are more about raising the strategic awareness and thinking of people currently in or seeking leadership positions.”

Hanson said he hopes to have a signature series of six to eight executive leadership courses available to cohorts from throughout the area in the months to come.