By Jennifer Schmidt
Jerry Kostick works as catering supervisor for Luther Midelfort and has been with the organization for nine years.
While he’s enjoyed his food service work, he’s planning a career change and pursuing a medical program through Chippewa Valley Technical College.
Starting next week, his degree track is going to get a lot more convenient — he won’t even have to leave the workplace to take his courses. Through Luther Midelfort’s new “corporate university,” he can get all his instruction on-site.
“I have taken a class at CVTC, but taking them at the Luther Midelfort Academy makes it much more convenient for me to pursue my goals,” said Kostick, 45, who intends to remain at Luther Midelfort when he completes his degree in May 2006.
Luther Midelfort has partnered with local colleges, universities and other learning organizations to offer an array of personal and professional development courses for employees. The endeavor is called the Luther Midelfort Academy, and about 200 classes will be offered a year.
The effort brings together internal classes that have always been offered, such as in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and information technology, with courses available through the partner organizations. Eleven new classes are starting this semester through the community partnerships.
One of them — Medical Terminology, a class focusing on the component parts of medical terms — starts Tuesday, and Kostick is among the enrollees. The three-credit class runs from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. While his shift typically ends at 3 p.m., Kostick will work later on school days to go directly there from work.
Char Goodman, a registered nurse in Luther Midelfort’s women’s health department and an adjunct instructor at Chippewa Valley Technical College, is teaching the course. It will be held in the organization’s education center, with access to affiliate sites in Barron, Bloomer and Osseo available via video conferencing.
“I think it’s going to be an exciting venture for everybody,” Goodman said.
In addition to the twice-weekly Luther Midelfort Academy class — which is exclusively for employees — Goodman teaches a separate weekly three-hour class for CVTC students.
Cathy Pierzina, organizational and leadership development specialist at Luther Midelfort, said the idea to create the corporate university surfaced about two years ago as an administrative team discussed ways of recruiting, retaining and developing employees. Around the same time, Pierzina conducted focus groups with colleagues to find out how to best meet the organization’s educational needs.
“Together, we started talking about this idea of a corporate university,” Pierzina said.
She emphasized the initiative is not intended to take the place of all other continuing education.
“We don’t pretend to be able to provide everything for everybody, but we have selected those areas that we think are going to be most valuable to the organization and to the employees,” Pierzina said.
In designing the corporate university, she said organizers strove to reduce as many barriers as possible for employees to reach their personal and professional goals — such as minimizing time away from family by holding classes on-site and reducing the bureaucracy that higher education institutions sometimes have by handling registrations and payment in-house. Tuition reimbursement is available for certain classes, she said.
Some of the offerings are free for employees, covered in Luther Midelfort’s educational budget. But some — the classes for credit — have associated student fees, she said.
The institutions providing the courses will be granting credits and conferring degrees, not the Luther Midelfort Academy.
No additional employees were hired, and no new facilities were constructed to accommodate the academy.
“Our efforts are to try as best we can to keep the revenue neutral. We’re not trying to make money because of the academy nor are we wanting it to cost the organization,” Pierzina said.
Bob Erffmeyer, MBA program director at UW-Eau Claire and one of the academy’s six community partners, said about five employees are enrolled in the business program this semester.
“We’re glad to see them do this,” Erffmeyer said.
Weng Liew, a business and industry specialist at CVTC, said entering into the partnership was a natural fit for CVTC.
“One of our missions is to serve the diverse training needs of the community, not only the individuals but also to businesses and industries,” Liew said. “We get highly involved in workforce development types of things. This is a great opportunity, and we feel privileged to be part of it.”
Pierzina said taking on the initiative as joint effort with the two colleges, UW-Stout, the Eau Claire YMCA, Mayo Clinic and Literacy Volunteers-Chippewa Valley strengthens the community.
“They have an investment in our organization, and we have an investment in them,” Pierzina said.
Officials felt it important to offer classes that enrich employees’ professional as well as personal lives, she said.
“We continue to focus on the professional development because that’s part of the core of who we are and what we do,” she said. “But we also recognize that employees are more than who they are when they’re here during their work hours, making sure that they have ways of being able to enrich themselves and manage their stress and feel like they are valued.”
- UW-Eau Claire News Bureau