COLLABORATION

CU Denver, Maryland firm target employee needs with new Master’s courses

SOURCE: Scott Blake/Unsplash
CU Denver contributes its technical expertise to develop a specialty programme catering to VERTEX engineering employee needs.

The University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver) and Maryland-based construction engineering firm Vertex have come together in partnership to co-develop advanced degree programmes designed to meet employee needs and that of other working professionals in the construction sector.

According to reports, the partnership formed in 2018 has today seen the creation of not one but two online Master’s-level programmes led by by the College of Engineering, Design and Computing and CU Denver Business School respectively.

Students, whether Vertex employees or others, can pursue either a Master of Science or Master of Engineering in Civil Engineering, with a specialisation in construction engineering management through the College of Engineering, or a Master’s in Management with a construction specialisation through the Business School.

The objective is to create tech-oriented business graduates and business-oriented engineering graduates within the growing architecture, engineering and construction industry.

The programmes were the results of discussions between key leaders in the school and Vertex employees. According to Denver Post, the collaboration came about when the firm’s CEO William McConnell reached out to CU Denver’s Caroline Clevenger about pursuing an advanced degree.

When McConnell started taking courses at the university, they began to see the benefits of partnering to help the firm’s employees, and others in the field, grow their knowledge and skills in the sector.

“They decided why don’t we partner with the university and really co-create a program so that all of our employees run through a university-accredited program,” Clevenger said in Denver Post.

“All of us are trying to figure out what the university of the future is going to look like, and it’s going to change more rapidly than it has in the past, just like every sector is changing. This is the start of the kind of changes we’re going to see.”

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In essence, the programmes build on the college’s efforts to create flexible and customisable online modules that add value to graduate degrees and provide flexibility for employed students. 

At the same time, Vertex views the partnership as a key opportunity to attract and retain top talent in the AEC market and to increase the quality of their workforce through professionally accredited university courses.    

This partnership arrangement was discussed recently at the CU Board of Regents meeting by College of Engineering, Design and Computing Dean Martin Dunn and Vertex Chief Learning Officer Russell Fitzpatrick. 

“This innovative partnership with Vertex reflects our strategic commitment to transform professional engineering education and establish our position as an emerging leader,” said Dunn. 

“With Vertex we will co-create and deliver competency-based, industry-responsive education that promotes a culture of lifelong learning and creates tomorrow’s technical leaders.” 

employee needs
Universities collaboratively create professional development programmes to create an experienced and well-educated workforce. Source: Charles Forerunner/Unsplash.

University-industry collaborations like this one are crucial to help firms develop a competent workforce and one that’s well-equipped with the skills required by an increasingly competitive marketplace.

By working with universities to co-develop programmes, industry leaders get to inject relevant and real-world expertise into course curriculum, which then adds an element of practicality to parallel the theoretical expertise of university academics.

This addresses employee needs in filling any skill gaps they may have that prevents them from moving forward in the workplace. 

The creation of these bespoke professional development programmes enables universities to gain more exposure among similar industry players as well as gain funding and recognition from relevant organisations who agree with the outcomes of the partnership and how it impacts the community.  

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In CU Denver’s case, the Vertex partnership opens up new opportunities for working students and employers and as such the CU Denver Office of Digital Education has offered the partnership a multi-year grant to further develop the online programme. 

The online course consists of tutorial movies, interactive practical work, video conventions to be conducted at the workplace and peer-to-peer review sessions.

Participants are also able to earn stackable credentials such as the Integrated Construction Management and Leadership certificate that can build towards degree completion. 

The programme has also streamlined its competency-based admissions and participants will be able to gain access by meeting minimum requirements and successfully completing the introductory courses. 

As the university does not plan on limiting the programme to Vertex employees, there are plans to expand and pitch this to other companies that have similar employee needs. 

“We’re interested in being able to scale that more broadly and do so in a way that helps build the industry,” said Dunn in a media statement

The programme officially launched this autumn following a Spring 2019 pilot programme. As of now, 21 Vertex-funded employees are studying at CU Denver with the firm planning on sending an additional 15 students for the next run of the programme in the following year.