BRIDGEPORT – As the regional economy recovers from the Great Recession and manufacturing returns to the Greater Bridgeport area, businesses are experiencing new workforce needs.
New Housatonic Community College Community Outreach Dean Denise S. Bukovan is keeping her eye on these changes … so her department can use its turn-on-a-dime capability to develop programs and courses to meet those needs.
Bukovan, who joined Housatonic from the State University of New York System Administration in Albany, is in charge of the college’s non-credit Lifelong Learning department and its new Strategic Solutions Group. The former develops non-credit programs that meet the education and training needs of residents and businesses throughout the Greater Bridgeport area, while the latter provides customized job training for area businesses, government agencies and nonprofits.
“Our goal is to become the premier education and training provider for Housatonic’s 11-town service region,” said Bukovan. “With the looming economic recovery taking hold and manufacturing returning to the Bridgeport area, both residents and businesses will want to know who to call to meet their immediate education and training needs. We want to be the first call – and the last call – they have to make.”
Bukovan brings more than 25 years’ experience in higher administration education to the position. This experience includes community college administration, program development, workforce training, strategic planning, grant development, and facilitating group initiatives. She received her bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Potsdam and her master of public administration degree from the State University of New York at Albany. She has completed 54 credits towards her PhD in educational administration at the same university.
Bukovan will further align the Lifelong Learning department’s program and course menus with today’s workplace needs. “There are many careers that require specialized education and training short of an associate degree,” she said. “For these positions, employers aren’t so much looking for a piece of paper as they are evidence that incoming employees know the field and can do the job. Our job is to create the programs and courses that will give them the skilled employees that they need.”
One such area is the medical profession, which has a need for trained Certified Nursing Assistants, pharmacy technicians, patient care technicians and phlebotomists. “Because of the need for these, we’re placing a greater emphasis on our CNA, pharmacy technician and patient care technician programs while we’re investigating adding other courses,” she said.
The Bridgeport area has long been a melting pot for new and aspiring Americans, Bukovan knows. This creates a need for English as a Second Language courses.
“Businesses have told us of the challenges they face when working with employees whose native language isn’t English, and we’re responding with a full slate of ESL courses to help them address this challenge.” she said. “This will help them improve communication with their employees and improve their effectiveness and efficiency.” A full slate of ESL courses will be offered to the general public as well, she said.
Customized Job Training
While the Lifelong Learning department offers a slate of courses that anyone can take, the strategic solutions unit offers company-specific courses. Typically, an SSG consultant will conduct a complimentary needs assessment to determine the scope of a company’s workforce needs. Then, the consultant will develop and conduct a program to meet those needs.
“The key to the programs SSG offers is their individuality,” Bukovan said. “SSG steps into situations where one size doesn’t fit all. SSG will assess a company’s individual needs and develop a unique program tailored to those needs. We will even develop a textbook tailored to a specific company.”
“Over the past year, HCC has been piloting the program, developing a strategic plan, conducting market research and testing the program with clients as far away as Florida,” she said. “Now, our main focus will be to fully launch the program and alert the business community to our capabilities.
The Community Outreach Department’s focus is serving the needs of the community, Bukovan pointed out. “With our non-credit courses and our advertising, marketing, public relations and website functions, we can bring the college to the community and the community to the college,” she said. ”Our emphasis will be on doing that both effectively and cost effectively.”