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How LSU Modernized Its 100-Year-Old Continuing Education Program

What started as adult education focused on agriculture and home economics has grown into a flagship program at Louisiana State University, with certifications in fields such as AI, cybersecurity and cloud computing.

Louisiana State University
(TNS) — In the 100 years the program has been in operation, more than 2 million students have been enrolled in what is now called LSU Online and Continuing Education.

The roots of the program go back to agriculture and home economics, said Roy Haggerty, LSU executive vice president and provost. Farmers relied on LSU agriculture extension agents to keep them up to date with the latest changes in the industry.

"You can think of extension and continuing education to be on a spectrum," Haggerty said.

But the scope of continuing education has changed over the years. While the flagship fundamentals of supervision course is still offered to help managers develop leadership skills, LSU offers certificates and certifications in fields such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, behavioral marketing, business psychology, medical cannabis and cloud computing.

"The breadth of the kinds of things that people are interested in learning about through continuing education has expanded beyond what it originally was," Haggerty said.

As adults need to learn more and more to keep up with the changes in business, demand for LSU's continuing education programs is increasing. Over the past four fiscal years, the office has seen an 81 percent increase in revenue, a period in which officials said registration fees have not increased.

In recent years, the university has made more of an effort to work closely with companies to offer continuing education courses that employees want and need.

LSU had a history of offering executive education programs, such as fundamentals of leadership, for employees at RoyOMartin. Those classes are still offered, but Donna Bailey, vice president of human resources with the company, said over the past decade, officials with the school have worked to develop training programs for departments and individual employees at the Alexandria wood products manufacturer.

"We grow trees, and we grow people," Bailey said.

About 250 employees go through the training every year, following a personal growth developed by their supervisors.

LSU and RoyOMartin have worked to develop leaders in the company. The next step is more individualized training to help shape the middle managers that will be future leaders. "There are strong development plans around our top leaders," Bailey said. Employees are hungry for knowledge, and they are demanding training.

Ray Neck, director of workforce development for Turner Industries, said LSU worked with the Baton Rouge-based construction company to develop a workforce investigations training program. The two-day class teaches human resources and safety employees how to conduct effective investigations of workplace incidents.

The course is now offered to more than just Turner employees; it has become part of the continuing education curriculum.

"They've been a great partner for us," Neck said. "We don't know what we would do without them."

While LSU continuing education works with major local employers such as Turner and RoyOMartin, the department's reach extends outside the South. For the past three years, the university has partnered with Guild, a Denver firm that connects employers with training providers. Guild's clients include household brands such as JPMorgan Chase, Disney, Target and Pepsi, which have hundreds of thousands of workers. Employees with these businesses are going through continuing education programs covering everything from getting a high school diploma to earning certifications in health care and finance.

More than 6 million employees get training annually through Guild.

Mark Rudnick, vice president of learning partnerships for Guild, said while the company doesn't share numbers, LSU in general is one of the more popular partners because of the breadth and depth of continuing education programs the university offers. The number of employees going through LSU programs "has expanded substantially" since the university got involved with Guild, he said.

"We chose to partner with LSU because they have an excellent reputation for high-quality education and they have a set of experiences doing at a scale that the largest employers need," Rudnick said. "There are a relatively small set of really high-quality public institutions out there that have expanded access to these types of offerings."

Haggerty said continuing education is one of the ways LSU fulfills its mission to grow the economy and prosperity of Louisiana, by making people more knowledgeable.

"We want to do any kind of continuing education that will help Louisianans to be prosperous, healthy and well," he said. "We want to take that education to people wherever we possibly can."

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