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Thursday, 29 March 2012 11:04

DU’s IPEx Center helps employees manage fast pace of change

Written by  Kym Reinstadler
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DU’s IPEx Center helps employees manage fast pace of change PHOTO: Joe Boomgaard
GRAND RAPIDS — Once upon a time, if you wanted a Papa John’s pizza, you’d pick up the phone and order one.

These days, customers are just as likely to place their orders with a Papa John’s app downloaded from the iTunes store. The company started taking orders online a decade ago, and online orders represent a bigger slice of the pizza chain’s sales every year.

For restaurant workers who never anticipated they’d have to operate a computer to make a pizza, the choice is usually simple: Get more training or seek another job.

“Managers and employees are having to deal with change faster than ever before,” said David Lawrence, VP of Davenport University’s Institute for Professional Excellence. “A lot of corporations — maybe most of them — are really challenged to manage change.”

Known by the acronym IPEx, the business services arm of the university works nimbly with corporations statewide to provide the training employees need to stay current.

Direct seller Amway Corp. partners with IPEx to provide a management training certification and support program for first-line leaders.

DU has agreements with Farmers Insurance, Cascade Engineering and 20 companies statewide to provide customized training.

An online Global Leadership course often provides foreign management candidates and suppliers of American companies doing business abroad with the knowledge and support they need to advance their careers, Lawrence said.

IPEx started 13 years ago and annually serves 1,000 workers statewide with training in leadership, technology, insurance, medical billing and coding, and other specialized fields.

Training programs typically last between two days to 10 months. Some programs run at job sites, while others run on one of DU’s 14 campuses.

Last fall, the university planned for IPEx training at its new downtown Grand Rapids facility, the Peter C. Cook Center at 45 Ottawa NW.

DU invested about $4 million to overhaul one of Grand Rapids’ oldest buildings, which had stood vacant for almost a decade but was most recently occupied by Custer Office Environments.

The Cook Center reestablishes Davenport’s presence downtown after consolidating operations at its Lettinga Campus outside of Grand Rapids and selling its Fulton Street property to Grand Rapids Community College.

The Cook Center houses IPEx offices and offers several high-tech classrooms and flexible discussion spaces for corporate training sessions and MBA classes.

Lawrence said plenty of employee groups — public and private — are coming in to experience the modern new facility and what the university has to offer.

DU is promoting the Cook Center as a community resource through IPEx, designated days for free tax preparation for low-income citizens, and speaking engagements open to the public.

Lawrence, a training consultant and adjunct Davenport business instructor before being promoted to lead IPEx, enjoys showing off the bells and whistles of the new facility. Nevertheless, IPEx and DU business services could almost sell themselves, he said.

DU designs credentialing and certification programs that closely match skills employees have already gained, making a way to earn academic credit for what they do at work, which will be helpful to prove what they know if they change jobs.

Lawrence said DU is one of few institutions that will do painstaking reviews of past workplace training for employees of some companies to determine whether academic credit can be articulated.

“For a lot people, this is just the affirmation and inspiration they need to decide to go to college to start or finish a degree,” Lawrence said. “Getting three, six or nine credits is a huge boost.”

In the depths of the recession, businesses deferred some training. In the last two years, however, Michigan companies have resumed investing in employees, especially to help them adapt to technologically and politically driven changes, he said.

Lawrence said he views fierce competition as the catalyst that will force educators and businesses to share knowledge and work together to innovate.

DU’s goal, he said, is to know business expectations and exceed them by developing graduates who hit the workforce ready, willing and able to make a difference.

The overarching need for training is changing at a pace faster than most people can comfortably deal with it, Lawrence said.

Businesses leaders accustomed to doing strategic planning annually now find they must review plans monthly and, perhaps, adjust weekly, he said.

Much discussion in management classes these days, he said, stems from the uneasiness of having to react to a changing situation that leaves people feeling stymied because they don’t have all the information they need to act.

DU is currently developing new programs on selling and operating businesses to succeed over many years.

Read 4337 times Last modified on Sunday, 12 August 2012 10:13

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