CPTC Manufactures Professional Managers
Working professionals may have decades of experience, but sometimes going back to school is the only way to advance in their field. Clover Park Technical College sought to meet these professional’s needs with the introduction of the Bachelor of Applied Science in Operations Management program almost two years ago.
At Saturday’s CPTC Commencement, the program celebrated its first eight graduates, marking the first students to earn a bachelor’s degree from CPTC. That degree will make the recipients eligible to become managers in their industries.
“For example, a welder with a two-year degree can’t go into management, and they aren’t being recruited by four-year universities,” said Tanya Sorensen, CPTC dean for student learning, academics. “Our bachelor’s program is catered to fill that gap.”
To accommodate working professionals, CPTC structured the BAS-OPM program as a hybrid version of traditional programs. Students in the program take most of their course work online, only meeting at the Lakewood campus three Saturdays per quarter.
“This program gives students, who have an associates degree and are working, the opportunity to advance in their careers by learning operations management,” Sorenson said. “Most universities don’t make it possible for a full-time manufacturing employee to go to school.”
Ken Albers, one of the 2016 graduates, has been working in manufacturing for 25 years. He said this flexibility was one of the many reasons he chose the program.
“I was working towards my bachelor’s, but I took a year off and that turned into 25 years,” Albers said after the CPTC Commencement Ceremony on June 18 at the Tacoma Dome. “This degree had everything I was looking for — it makes it possible for someone who is working.”
Sorensen said another benefit is the focused study.
“They will not be taking general education that’s unrelated to their technical skills — this is much more focused,” Sorensen said. “These focused studies are something you would see at a graduate school, not at the baccalaureate level. Our program is for a technical professional, not for an English-lit major, so it’s targeted to them.”
Besides being hybrid and targeted, Sorensen added that CPTC is more affordable.
“We’re very proud of our model, and of course we are less expensive than a four-year university,” Sorenson said.
Albers added that learning alongside other working professionals was a great experience for him.
“My cohorts are all bright and smart in every way. They inspired me to keep pushing and thriving,” said Albers, who also recently won a CPTC Academic Excellence Award for excellence in academic performance, leadership and service.
The program includes study in business communications, managerial economics, professional ethics, organizational psychology, project management, focused study on an area of interest and individual and group capstone projects.
“This program is fully focused toward being a manager in their business; students don’t have to take prerequisite classes that don’t apply to them,” Sorenson said.
CPTC is paving the way for models like this at local colleges, becoming the first two-year college in Pierce County to offer a bachelor’s degree, and is also filling a need in the manufacturing industry.
“At Milgard Windows, where I work, there is a 30-60 percent turnover rate. It’s very difficult for them to find qualified people for leadership roles,” Albers said. “This degree fits a great need and gives me the confidence and skills to succeed.”
Albers said he was laid off in 2008, and it was difficult for him to find work.
“Having this degree now, I feel more confident and secure for the future,” Albers said.
Although the program launched with only eight students, Sorenson is seeing increased interest.
“We have a steady amount of interest and people calling; in the last six months the interest is increasing,” Sorenson said. “We will start a new cohort every fall, or more if there is enough enrollment.”
The program requires an associate degree to sign up.
“We accept any associate degree, as long as it meets Washington state standards,” Sorenson said.
Sorensen added she is excited for the next cohort.
“I’ve taught some of them, I’ve been with them on their Saturdays and watched their presentations,” Sorenson said. “I’ve seen them grow and am just so excited. I feel we're sending out some very qualified students to take leadership positions in their field.”
Albers said he highly approves of the program.
“I absolutely recommend this program to people in the production environment who want to move up — the tools you learn apply to any industry,” Albers said. “I even sent information to colleagues, because I think this program is absolutely worth it.”
To enroll in the BAS-OPM program visit cptc.edu/programs/basopm.