Butler Community College is expanding the scope of its workforce training

Butler Community College is expanding the scope of its workforce training to respond to the growing demand for needs-assessed programs. The new initiative is being introduced along with a new name, BETA, to reflect a redoubled emphasis on custom-designed, real-world training support for area employers.

Formerly known as the Center for Workforce & Professional Advancement, the college-based consulting service has identified a need for more integrated partnerships with employers, especially those whose internal training capacity has been diminished as a legacy of the recession. They also identified a need for a better name.

“BETA is a better shorthand for who we are,” explained Jon Cressler, interim director. “It’s actually an acronym that stands for Business Education & Training Analysis, but the operative word is ‘analysis.’ We wanted a name that spoke to the way we work up front to get a complete picture of a client’s training needs, then design programs that respond specifically to the real, working environment where their people need to perform.”

The redirection comes on the heels of news the Department of Labor awarded a $2.7 million grant to Butler to create a new Information Technology Institute on their Andover campus. Commissioned to give displaced workers the chance to compete in growing IT fields, the Institute will also collaborate with BETA to deliver noncredit training across a diverse spectrum of critical technology skills.

The award is consistent with a nationwide rediscovery of community colleges as valuable resources to build a more tech-savvy workforce of the future. There has also been renewed interest in tapping those resources to reach out to workers already on the job. Reaching out to them is exactly what BETA has in mind.

“We don’t just hold classes on campus,” Cressler said. “We go into our clients’ workplaces first to understand their policies and processes. Then we can bring the training into their plants and offices, too. That’s why we want people to think of us as more of a service than a center. We’re going out to the client and integrate the training with their processes and operations.”

BETA coursework will also be coming to a computer near you soon. Recognizing a trend toward more self-guided, online training, Beta consultants are working with a number of clients to convert their training to highly customized cyber programs.

“It’s a model that works especially well if you have a smaller staff,” Cressler noted, “because it’s more practical than shutting down your operations to accommodate the training.”

The future of workforce training is being driven by a number of factors, but economic realities and accelerating technology changes may require more area employers to look to Butler and their BETA model for ongoing support.

As Cressler sees it, the key to providing that support is to get in on the ground floor and train there.

“Training isn’t just an event,” he said. “It’s a process, and it requires an integrated partnership between trainers and employers right from the start.”

The program will offer evening courses covering basic skills and safety in MIG, TIG and Stick welding at Levels I and II for each course. Each two week program includes 40 contact hours that participants must complete in full on the Butler Community College campus in El Dorado, Kansas. The next program date is 6 to 10 p.m. Nov. 11.

“We’ve had a number of requests from area businesses to provide this training because it will help to fill the gap in resources available in the community,” said Cressler. “This is the kind of employer-responsive training that BETA is really adept at designing and delivering almost as quickly as we can define the need.”

“The demand the market is experiencing really can’t be fully met with just a two-year degree program,” according to Dr. Roberto Rodriguez, Dean of Butler’s Division of Career & Technical Education and Advance Technology Center. “Deploying this training on a fast track ensures employers that they will have a ready pool of skilled, safe workers.”

The program is designed for students with no welding background as well as for those who want to improve or expand their welding skills. Sessions meet from 6 to 10 each weeknight for two weeks per course. Contact Jon Cressler at 316-218-6118 to register for the next available program.