Wanted: Technology Expertise

As technology transforms business around the globe, the need for employees with technical expertise becomes ever more critical. Problem is, [...]

June 1 1995 by Bob Donnelly


As technology transforms business around the globe, the need for employees with technical expertise becomes ever more critical. Problem is, the U.S. education system isn’t keeping up with demand, turning out a surplus of four-year college graduates who lack the required practical skills. The work force crunch is particularly acute for growing technology-based firms: While Fortune 500 companies typically attract skilled employees, many smaller companies grapple with a chronically under trained work force that prevents them from capitalizing on opportunities.

The solution is a resource that may be right in your own backyard-the technical training institute. What used to be a dumping ground for inferior students is now a valuable source of information and employees. The need for technically skilled employees actually created a cottage industry: For example, DeVry Institutes, a unit of private degree-granting higher education system DeVry Inc. in Oakbrook Terrace, IL, grooms and places thousands of technicians each year. Many companies outsource research and development projects to tech schools; use their students in school-to-work programs; and tap their extensive data bases to solve marketing, R&D, and product development problems.

Frank Sinclair, founder and CEO of Saddle Brook, NJ-based Westlock Controls, a growing manufacturer and marketer of valve-control and monitoring products, recently struck a relationship with Bergen Technical Schools, an operation with three campuses in the state’s Bergen County. “The enhancements to my business from our relationship with Bergen Tech have been truly amazing,” Sinclair says. “It will add value for our customers and our community for years to come. The best part of it is the school is my backyard, and I didn’t even know it.”

Bergen Tech has more computing capacity and technological expertise than many Fortune 500 companies. With a staff of more than 700 administrators, teachers, and support personnel, the school is a growing business that uses information technology resources to create business problem-solving applications. Students work in a virtual reality laboratory with a serial lithography system linked electronically to computer-aided design and manufacturing facilities, allowing them to design and create products in weeks rather than months or years. In addition, the school is hooked into the Internet, which offers access to any company in the world. Bergen Tech also has an electronic library of thousands of books, magazines, and newspapers. Thus, students can search through all the data in the library by subject, technology, or specific aspect of science.

Small companies that ally with a training school such as Bergen Tech gain instant access to these and other resources. They can quickly upgrade their engineering, marketing, management, operations, and information technology skills to compete with larger companies. Employees also can get basic skills training in reading, writing, math, and English as a Second Language.

Students are available to work on R&D projects and become involved in school-to work programs. In addition, about 25,000 adults are involved in Bergen Tech’s Adult Education programs-a pool of potential, technically skilled employees. Customized day, evening, and off-site training can be arranged.

Going one step further, DeVry Inc.’s 11 DeVry Institutes offer comprehensive four-year undergraduate programs in five areas, including electronics, computer information systems, telecommunications, business operations, and accounting. Receiving a practical education that stresses familiarity with common technical equipment and computer environments, DeVry graduates are pursued by companies such as General Electric and Motorola, as well as by smaller concerns.

DeVry also has a Corporate Education Services division, which organizes customized educational programs to help increase companies’ efficiency, productivity, and quality. Conducted at customer sites, CES programs-ranging from short seminars and workshops to courses lasting many weeks-emphasize the direct, practical application of business concepts, techniques, and skills.

Don’t let these resources slip through your fingers. Do your homework and learn to leverage the business benefits of technical training alliances. As John Grieco, superintendent of Bergen Tech, says, “The only sensible path to future success for our society is to optimize the natural synergy between the creativity of the entrepreneurial mind and the technical resources to exploit it.”  


Robert M. Donnelly is chairman and managing partner of Alpha International Management Group, a New York-based consulting firm that works with growing companies.