WGU Nevada works to prepare the Nevada workforce | nnbusinessview.com

WGU Nevada works to prepare the Nevada workforce

Employers need a skilled workforce in order to fill the jobs coming to Northern Nevada. Western Governors University (WGU) Nevada is one of the educational institutions working to prepare the students for the new economy.

"Nevada is at a very interesting crossroads especially as it relates to attracting and creating a diversified economy in the workforce," Spencer Stewart, chancellor of WGU Nevada, said.

WGU Nevada is an online, nonprofit, competency-based university designed to provide working adults with an affordable and flexible way to earn their degree. Their average student age is 37 and the university offers more than 50 bachelors and masters degree programs within four colleges, which include the college of business, college of information technology, college of health professionals and the teachers college.

"We see a lot of demand within our college of business," Stewart said.

According to Stewart, 45 percent of their more than 2,500 students are enrolled within their college of business. Another area in which WCU Nevada is seeing strong demand is in their college of information technology.

"We are seeing more demand in IT," Stewart said.

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In order to meet that demand, WGU Nevada added a new degree program in data management/data analytics and a new degree program in cybersecurity and information assurance within the past year. The two programs are now offered at both the undergraduate and graduate level.

"One of the keys moving forward will be to have sufficient tech talent in order to make Nevada attractive for existing companies to expand" as well as for companies that are looking to relocate to the state, he said.

Stewart said that one of his goals is to make sure that WGU Nevada's college of information technology is well known to the Nevada business community and is as assessable as possible to both large and small businesses.

WGU Nevada works directly with industry experts in Nevada to understand what competencies newly minted graduates need to be successful in the Nevada workforce. Stewart said that employers are not only looking for knowledge within their chosen field, but they are also looking for strong soft skills such as critical thinking skills, communication skills and cultural understanding,

"It takes those two pieces to produce a competent graduate for 21st-century industry demands," he said.

WGU uses a competency-based education system. This method of teaching focuses on students mastering the skills they are learning to guarantee students are prepared when they enter the workforce. More education systems are looking into the benefits of competency-based education.

"K-12 systems across the country are starting to explore competency-based education," Stewart said.

In the 2017 Nevada legislative session, Assembly Bill 110 was signed into law that will establish a pilot program to look at what competency-based education would look like the K-12 level. Stewart said that Nevada is one of the last states to have legislation on the books to explore competency-based education.

"It will be interesting to see if this is something that Nevada and its K-12 students have an appetite for," Stewart said.

WGU was established in 1997. This year marks the university's 20-year anniversary.

"We have grown considerably as a university over the last 20 years," Stewart said.

Today, WGU serves more than 8,500 students across the nation. According to Stewart, they are working to increase the quality and rigor of their programs as the university continues to grow.

"The university 20 years ago looks very different from the university today," he said. "And by extension, the university five or 10 years from now will look very different."

WGU is not only growing nationally but also within Nevada.

The WGU Nevada was created as a partnership between the State of Nevada and WGU in 2015. WGU Nevada held their second commencement ceremony for 396 students this past May. This is an increase from the more than 200 students that graduated from WGU Nevada in 2016 and Stewart expects the number of graduates to continue to increase.

"We have larger expectations in our third year," he said.

For more information about WGU Nevada, visit http://www.nevada.wgu.edu.