Customizes Training and Degree Programs to Serve Your Business Needs
When the business community speaks, the faculty at Fulton-Montgomery Community College (FMCC) listens. “We change our programs and courses based on input from our employer groups,” said Mark Swain, assistant professor of accounting and business.
Before teaching at FMCC, faculty members practiced in the fields in which they teach. “These are real world people teaching in the classroom the skills they used in the real world—it’s more real world and less ivory tower,” said Laurence Zuckerman, associate professor in the Department of Business. That makes them particularly relevant instructors for students who are being trained to enter the workforce upon graduation, plus makes the professors valuable to local businesses because they understand firsthand what businesses need.
To augment that understanding of employers’ needs, the college also has a business advisory board made up of a subset of industry leaders in the community. “It’s a broad representation of the entire business community,” Zuckerman said. Faculty members consult with the business advisory board to ensure that their courses and programs help students develop the abilities that employers want them to have. “When we ask them what skills their employees need, we’re drawing on employers that have connections all over the world,” he said, pointing out the broad international corporate make-up of Fulton and Montgomery counties.
The faculty listens and adapts its offerings accordingly. “Our local businesses get that opportunity to tell us what they need, and we listen,” said Charlene Dybas, assistant professor of business technology applications. Then, the faculty changes, eliminates, or adds courses based on the feedback and suggestions they receive the business advisory board members.
Being focused on the needs of businesses not only helps employers, but also FMCC’s students. “We want our students to have a job when they leave,” Dybas said.
As industry needs change, so do FMCC’s programs. “All of the programs are very responsive to the needs of the employers,” said Jeremy Spraggs, assistant professor of electrical technology. “Fifteen years ago, it was telecommunications; now, it’s factory automation and clean rooms,” he said, noting that this responsiveness to local industry is key to students’ employability upon graduation.
Students take classes and work with tools and software that they will find in the real world upon graduation. For example, students train in the Department of Technology’s automation labs and clean room. Students in the Department of Business will soon be learning in a newly constructed Financial Technology Center. With a focus on practical education, the center will feature a streaming stock ticker, world clocks, wall monitors, and a host of computers stations. “Students actually know how to open a brokerage account and trade stocks,” Zuckerman said.
In addition to providing an extremely relevant education program that develops students’ employability, FMCC, being a small school, is extremely accessible to employers. “Our size is our advantage, because employers that come here can immediately develop a working relationship with our college,” Zuckerman said,noting that employers can easily access senior faculty with a phone call.
That working relationship takes a variety of forms. Through FMCC’s Center for Employer Services, faculty provide customized services to meet a company’s training or workforce development needs. Professors teach on site at an employer’s location, or employees can attend trainings and courses at FMCC. “If employers have specific course or training needs, that can be developed very quickly—no bureaucracy,” Zuckerman said.
For example, in the college’s automation labs and clean room, over 300 employees from 24 employers have taken classes that Spraggs developed and tailored to meet employers’ specialized needs.
Faculty pride themselves not only on the flexibility of their programs, but also the college’s schedules. When GlobalFoundries, a Capital Region manufacturer, wanted some employees to earn their associate degrees, Spraggs rearranged the class schedules for the electrical technology program so that students who worked full-time could also attend FMCC to earn their degrees.
Swain points out that FMCC’s programs are also a great choice for returning adults, with in-person and online options. For example, in the Department of Accounting, Swain changed the advanced bookkeeping course to a “flex mode course,” with in-person and online options to accommodate students who are working full-time.
Businesses also have the opportunity to have interns from FMCC. “We love to have our students go out,” Dybas said. “It’s usually a win-win—most of our students are hired by the company,” she said.
FMCC is also part of the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (PTECH), a joint program with the Hamilton Fulton Montgomery BOCES, where high school students take credited college courses at FMCC while earning their high school diplomas.
FMCC’s faculty members value the partnerships they form with members of the local business community. It is high on their priority list to provide as great a service for local companies as possible, which both helps the college’s students and contributes to the growth and success of local businesses.