An educated workforce is key to a stronger business
Our economy is drastically changing to a service-oriented economy driven by information. People are tasked with processing large and different types of information. That's what is necessary to succeed in this new economy, and it's what makes companies successful. They can't afford to have an uneducated work force. That's why investing in education by a company could potentially return that investment tenfold. If there's one thing I'm sure of based on my experiences, both in working at UPS and in teaching at University of Phoenix, it's that an educated workforce has a direct impact on the success of a business.
UPS' commitment to education
Being at UPS, you can't help but understand and appreciate how highly education is valued. UPS has been around for more than 100 years, and in that time, it has developed a strong culture that truly values people. Even with all of our advanced technology and our proven shipping processes, we recognize that people are our most valuable asset. As a company, we continually ask ourselves, "How can we better our people?" One of the ways we do that is through education.
UPS takes the improvement of its people very seriously. It has implemented two types of mentoring programs for its employees. Our formal program managed by our human resources department pairs mentors like me with a mentee. It's a year-long commitment for the mentors in which we help mentees with anything specific to our company. Our informal mentoring program allows the mentee to initiate the relationship. The mentee reviews a database of biographies submitted by prospective mentors and chooses a mentor based on the skill sets he or she wants to develop.
By allowing employees the chance to tap into a company's own resources, especially a company as large as UPS, it benefits everyone. Directly engaging employees in this way will hopefully help maximize their performance, and provide them the chance to learn skill sets that can be directly applied on the job.
My personal mission to educate others
I gained an appreciation early on for what today's working learners go through. When I was in law school, I was taking a full load of classes while also working full time. Soon after graduating from law school, I had my twins, so I was quite busy. After all that, I felt like I could do anything! That entire experience taught me how to embrace challenges as well as the unknown.
And that's what I had to do at UPS in my role as a lawyer supporting the technology division. I'm exposed to cutting-edge issues that may not have black-and-white answers—I like that kind of challenge. When I started, legal issues related to technology were an unknown area of the law for me. But because it's so critical to UPS operations, I had to make an extra effort to understand it. It's a continual learning experience.
I kept that in mind when I began doing presentations for my department. I tailored my information because I was talking to an audience for whom law was an unknown topic, like technology once was for me. I liked the "Ah, ha!" look on their faces when they understood something they didn't ordinarily deal with at work. I grew to love doing those presentations.
That experience made me want to contribute to the educational culture beyond UPS. I considered teaching part-time at a local university, but our schedules didn't mesh. Then, a manager at work who took classes online at suggested I teach through its online program. I thought it could be just as rewarding as a traditional classroom teaching experience.
I approached University of Phoenix in 2005 about becoming a member of its online faculty. I had to participate in a training program that was taught as an actual online class—I'd never taken one before. What a learning experience it was! I was used to traditional classroom instruction, so it initially was a challenge for me to use technology in a learning capacity. But when I finished, I had the full student experience—I understood from their perspective what they were doing and seeing.
I gained a real understanding of how to communicate in that environment. I learned how to interact with other students. I learned how to structure criticism appropriately. As a faculty member, I have to be conscious of how I present things in an online environment, much like I'd be mindful of tone when composing an email, for example.
Soon after taking that first class in 2005, I joined the faculty of University of Phoenix. Since then, I've been teaching online graduate-level business law and corporate governance courses.
Bridging the gap between education and business
I see every day how an educated work force impacts UPS—whether it's through our mentoring programs, our internal presentations or employees enrolling in institutions of higher learning through our tuition assistance program. That reinforces my belief that there needs to be more collaboration between education and the business world.
Educational partnerships would be key to achieving this goal. Businesses and educational institutions could work together developing a curriculum that teaches the necessary skills and knowledge that align with company-specific business strategies and goals. As a result, educated employees would be better able to match their skills to what an employer is looking for and contribute more effectively to its bottom line.
Establishing business-education partnerships demonstrates a commitment to an educated work force. It not only helps improve processes, it reinforces to employees their value and provides opportunities for professional growth. The return on that investment is immeasurable.
This article originally appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, UOPX Campus Viewpoints section. To review our current faculty articles, visit: https://chronicle.com/campusViewpoint/University-of-Phoenix/29/.