Bellevue College working to close “skills gap” that hinders employment

Date posted: May 28, 2013

With many positions at area businesses going unfilled due to a lack of qualified workers, Bellevue College, a leader in educational and workforce development, is working to close the “skills gap” that exists in the region by stepping up its engagement with the business community.

“Companies rely on talent to grow and thrive, and our goal is to form close relationships with businesses so we can better understand what their needs are,” said BC President David L. Rule, Ph.D. “We can then develop programs that will provide the education and training that our students need to fill those jobs.”

This ongoing effort has produced recent successes, including an applied bachelor’s degree in Healthcare Information Technology that was developed specifically in response to demand from area healthcare providers who are making the switch to digital records. This career path is growing exponentially in the Puget Sound region and across the nation, and will provide many well-paying jobs for BC graduates. A new degree in IT, launching this fall, also came about based on key industry feedback.

A large part of this work is taking place in BC’s Continuing Education division, which offers a host of courses and certificate programs teaching in-demand skills, and provides customized training for some of the largest firms in the region. Successful programs include Project Management, Business Intelligence and Data Analytics, as well as the Software Test Engineer certificate program. “We’re actively developing more programs just like these that will help make people competitive for job opportunities, and we’re looking to area business leaders to help us achieve this,” said Paula Boyum, Ph.D., vice president for economic and workforce development.

With an eye toward cultivating more extensive partnerships with the business community, Continuing Education recently added four new executives with significant experience in private industry:

  • Jim Bryan, director of corporate relations, brings extensive skills in business development, client services, and senior leadership in training. He was formerly the west coast vice president of sales and director of client services for Provant, part of Global Novations at the time, which offered a wide variety of technical and soft skills training. He has worked extensively with companies such as Microsoft and Boeing.
  • Radhika Seshan, executive director of programs, brings a wealth of product management, technical, and business expertise. She has held corporate positions at AT&T Bell Laboratories, Lucent Technologies and UI Evolution. Most recently, she worked as vice president of product management for Corinthian Colleges.
  • Lane Gossard, director of marketing, previously worked as a brand advocate for University of Washington Educational Outlook’s business and professional programs. Prior to this, Gossard worked with United Way for many years in development and marketing roles.
  • Jeff Brunson, executive director of operations and finance, joins the team from Microsoft. His background includes global OEM partner relationships at both Microsoft and AT&T Wireless, and international entrepreneurial experiences in Guam and Japan.

“We deeply value our connection to the business community, and our new CE leadership team will help BC Continuing Education serve businesses efficiently and effectively, build and strengthen partnerships, and intensify our presence in the community,” said Executive Dean Janis Machala.

For more than four decades, Bellevue College Continuing Education has provided the Eastside with professional training, certificate programs, extensive language offerings, and personal enrichment, and is the largest program of its kind in the Washington State Community and Technical Colleges system. More than 11,000 adult learners benefit from Continuing Education classes each year, which are tailored to fit the needs of the residential and business community. It has formed alliances and gained support from major companies such as Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, T-Mobile and Expedia.  In 2012, Bellevue College appointed Janis Machala as the new executive dean of Continuing Education.

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