While traditional community and four-year colleges offer a fixed curriculum that leads to a defined degree, customized training programs work directly with employers to identify the skills they need for various job functions. Jon Olson, Director of ProWork Training at Anoka Technical College, calls it “reverse engineering.”

His goal is to hear employers say, “This is exactly what we need!” While Anoka’s Professional and Workforce Training (ProWork) is designed to fill employers’ immediate needs, it also offers a testing ground for the college’s standard curriculum: “Is this something we can incorporate into our for-credit offerings?”

Matt Salo, Program Manager for Biomedical Technology, said ProWork provides more than skills. “Our instructors are adjuncts. They know what’s expected in the workplace,” he said. “This isn’t Henry Ford’s assembly line. In the biomedical industry, ‘good enough’ is not good enough. It’s expected as an employee for me to raise my hand if something isn’t right. It’s amazing to see the transformation of students who feel empowered—they’re entrepreneurs when it comes to efficiency.”

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