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Using Planning Tools Effectively

We are a computer centric career school so we look for career options that fit our business model. Our school does a lot of Workforce Board funded training so it must be on the local Targeted Occupational List and we study the history of those listing to be sure they are likely to remain on the listing.

We rely heavily on employer job listings posted to the most popular Online Job Sites and the local newspaper ads. We survey job listings in the Tampa Bay area within reasonable commuting distance for entry level employment as a career changer. The goals is to find 150 listings for a career within one week. We then analyze these entry level positions to determine what skills local employers want the applicants to have to be "well qualified".

If we find the required volume for a career on the local Workforce Boards Targeted Occupational list that meets the required minimum pay levels we will conduct a telephonic survey of employers to find out more about desired skills and certifications that can be beneficial for new employees.

Once we believe we have a viable Program candidate we determine the costs associated with implementation and any regulatory requirements. We also require a viable vendor certification for every career Program we propose for approval.

We will propose the Program outline to an Advisory Committee for their validation and suggestions prior to submitting the Program Outline for approval to the state.

Tim - Who within your organization is responsible for the "gut check" on starting a program? Is there a relaible source either locally or at your home office/HQ that has a lot of industry experience to know if certain programs will work or not in general?

Often times, local employers don't care about your investment. They just want you to start a program to help them fill a need.

It is great to have a strong relationship with the local workforce agency. Many strongly support our students. Meeting the needs of their clients should always be a priority.

If anyone is here qualified to do a "gut check" it would be me. I am the owner and have worked in operations and training for 30 years...but I don't do anything as important as determining new Programs using that method. That process is too costly to "wing it" especially if you guess wrong.

Agreed, you would never "wing it" to invest in a new program. You would use this method from a relaible source, even if it yourself when the data shows a 50/50 shot of making it. In today's climate, you would probably want to be a little more confident in the data than you needed to be 5-10 years ago.

Our campus president has done a tremendous job in hiring his staff, so we have some incredibly experienced people on board, all who have experienced adding new programs in the past. We begin with drawing on our own resources and knowledge, and then branch out to other contacts that we may have about specific questions with adding new programs.

We also always use our accreditation standards as a starting point to bounce ideas off and modify and adjust the plan when necessary. This is important, as it never allows us to get too far off.

As far as planning tools, we understand the importance of a timeline. When one lays out a timeline, it gives individuals as well as the institution a good guide for what needs to get done when.

Planning tools have their roots in Total Quality Management. It would be beneficial if the team had a specialist in Quality Management as a team member. This would help in the application of some of the tools.


smaller organizations are having difficulty in being able to economically support this type of role but larger ones should certainly have one.

Christopher Nickell


A timeline also assigns a very specific responsible person for the action required. That can sometimes be a big problem with program development. A key leader to oversee the project and key assignments that this person can point toward when the ball is dropped. Often times, it is a peer that is assigned to direct others to do their part. In a matrix organization that lacks egos, this works. In a strict hierarchy with egos, this is more difficult.

Christopher Nickell

Our institution uses many of the tools discussed as they are required by the regulatory agencies as discussed during the course. I think adding information about agencies that may not hire our graduates would be an excellent tool to add as well as evaluating the census information. We generally conduct interviews and surveys, have advisory board meetings and research the community needs when adding a program or modifying an existing one.

We have an excellent community involvement and communication with businesses and Chambers of Commerce. The staff is committed and willing to participate and share their input for the project. We also have vast data and an advisory Board. We will use the community involement as a tool to conduct focus groups.

What kinds of planning tools are already used by your institution? How much of the existing planning tools will you use? What new planning tools will you bring to the project?

My location works with all departments to ensure that everyone can give ideas. We reach out to leaders in areas.


I do love the idea of working with all departments, especially academics and (my favorite academic population) adjunct faculty!. Those working in the field can be a wonderful and often underutilized resource!

Dr. Lisa Sharpe

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