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Office of Professional and Continuing Education shifts focus

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Its name isn’t the only thing new about the Office of Professional and Continuing Education at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

The office’s focus is now fixed squarely on professional learning, career training and academic enrichment, said Dr. Martha Bryant, its director.

“Continuing education is changing at many colleges and universities, including UL Lafayette, because workforce needs are changing. People increasingly want to enhance professional skills – or add new ones. So we’re pivoting, providing more options to support employees and businesses,” she said.

Gone with the office’s former name – the Office of Continuing Education – is its “dual focus.” In the past, continuing education at the University consisted of blend of non-credentialed professional courses and leisure learning courses. Leisure learning includes pursuits such as gardening, cooking or dancing.

The shift is being driven, in part, by employee shortages in some industries as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also reflects a trend toward more partnerships among businesses and higher education. “Companies are investing in the sort of training universities are positioned to give for a variety of reasons, whether it’s to foster leadership among employees, or to help them learn about workplace culture,” Bryant explained.

University faculty and staff members, graduate assistants, and businesspersons who are experts in their fields will lead Office of Professional and Continuing Education offerings, all of which will be delivered virtually.

The office will continue to offer a range of its popular certificate programs and courses, dozens of offerings that include ACT and notary public exam readiness, and human resources and food safety training. It will bolster its existing certificate programs, courses and training opportunities, however, with new offerings that “fill an existing need,” Bryant said.

Case in point: the office’s new “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” course, a series of eight, 90-minute sessions that explore diversity in the workplace. The course will cover social justice, inclusion in recruitment, hiring and retention practices, fostering workplace understanding and support, and other topics. People who register for the course can complete sessions at their own pace.

“We will launch a new module each week that can be watched in one sitting or, based on participants’ schedules, in blocks. They will, however, be required to complete all of the coursework requirements in a specified amount of time,” Bryant explained.

The course won’t be geared specifically toward businesses and employees. The Office of Professional and Continuing Education will offer a modified version later this year or next semester. That version will be designed for educators as part of the University’s Educating for Equity program. Evidence-based research discovered as part of the state Board of Regents-funded program will enable other institutions in the University of Louisiana System and across the state and nation to adopt best practices.

“Going forward, we will collaborate with a range of campus colleges, departments and offices on initiatives and programs related to professional learning and certification,” Bryant said.

One of those partnerships, Bryant explained, will be with the College of Engineering, which is working with the Office of Professional and Continuing Education to develop a solar energy certification program. The program is expected to be launched during the spring semester.

Partnerships with industry will also continue to be a focus, including through state-funded training programs and training tailored to meet needs of businesses and organizations.

Learn more about the Office of Professional and Continuing Education, which is located in the University’s LITE Center in Research Park. Email or call (337) 482-6386 with questions.

Photo caption: The focus at UL Lafayette’s former Office of Continuing Education is online professional learning opportunities, career training and academic enrichment. Photo credit: Rachel Rafati / University of Louisiana at Lafayette