Florida Chapter Creates Award-Winning College Certificate Program

By Kathy Gurchiek Jun 16, 2011

Thanks to the efforts of the Space Coast Human Resource Association (SCHRA) chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in Brevard County, Fla., local high school students are becoming aware that HR is a career option. And it’s one they can pursue through an HR certificate program the chapter helped to create at Brevard Community College.

The chapter won a 2010 Pinnacle Award for its program, “Advancing the Profession to Generation Next.” SCHRA was one of seven U.S. chapters and two state councils whose outstanding programs won the coveted national award that SHRM and ADP sponsor annually. Winners were announced during the SHRM Leadership Conference in November 2010.

The program came about when the chapter realized that the local community college and the county school’s career and technical education (CT&E) program of study offered finance, accounting and international business as career options for high school students to pursue after graduation—but human resource management was not cited.

“No one thought to offer human resources as a career option to high school students,” noted chapter members Valarese V. Poole and Susie VanMeter in the Pinnacle Award application.

Poole is the chapter’s marketing and communications director. She also serves on the board for the Cocoa Beach High School’s Academy of International Business Program and is HR manager at L-3 Communication Systems Group. VanMeter is the chapter’s college relations chairman and is director of corporate services for technical and professional training at Brevard Community College.

Building Bridges to Next-Generation HR

Keenly aware of the area’s aging workforce, Poole saw a need to draw in “Generation Next.”

“We saw what others failed to see—that is the opportunity to advance the profession to the next generation while tapping into their creative ideas for enhancing the workplace environment,” the chapter wrote in its application.

The workplace needs of a new graduate are far different from those of a seasoned professional, they pointed out, and “in order to be efficient change agents, it is necessary for current HR professionals—seasoned or not—to tap into the thoughts and creative ideas” of Generation Next.

“Instilling an interest in human resource management at the high school level ensures that this generation will not only promote their creative ideas, but these ideas will also enhance the human resource profession,” they noted in the application.

“I wanted to do something that would heighten their knowledge of HR and also pique their interest,” Poole told SHRM Online. “This is a profession that will never go away; I don’t care how high-tech we get. … You need the human factor.”

The chapter also saw the program as a way to teach high school students workplace interpersonal skills that could transfer to their everyday lives so they can help themselves and their peers address behavioral problems such as bullying, Poole said.

Mapping the Curriculum

Armed with the SHRM HR Curriculum Guidebook and Templates and the Florida Department of Education’s curriculum framework, the chapter met in August 2009 with the community college’s dean of academic development, the director of CT&E programs development and a business professor at the college.

Having the curriculum template “was a very big help” to the college, Poole said. The college also learned that another Florida college used SHRM’s curriculum to develop a program that was a suitable model to work from, she added.

“It was just a matter of [the college] picking out the courses and writing the curriculum to meet the requirements of community colleges in the state of Florida,” Poole said.

The chapter also regularly met and conducted presentations for the county school board’s CT&E director and resource teacher to discuss the advantages of adding an HR curriculum to the CT&E program.

The chapter approved the 21-credit-hour program, aimed at preparing students for entry-level HR positions. It was in place for the fall 2010 semester. A full-time student can complete the program in one year.

The chapter notified CT&E and the Cocoa Beach High School’s Academy of International Business Program when the program was ready to launch.

Program Progression

Academically qualified high school students may sign up through a dual-enrollment program that allows them to attend part time during the school year, after school or during the summer term. Students also may enroll in the HR certificate program through the county school’s CT&E program of study.

In addition, the certificate program is pitched to adult students—an important factor in an area where the shuttering of the space shuttle program is set to increase unemployment in the area, according to Poole.

The first semester saw four enrollees; 19 entered the second semester for a total of 23 students in 2010, according to data from Brevard Community College.

Courses cover basic business operations; records management; key legislation affecting HR management; and major HR functions, such as compensation and benefits, recruitment, and staffing. College students must complete an approved internship in an HR department during their sophomore year. The chapter developed the internship criteria and reviews internship applications for the college to make sure applicants have completed core HR courses.

The chapter used the $1,000 Pinnacle prize money as seed money to start a scholarship for the program.

Poole advises other chapters developing similar programs to be patient.

“You have to be passionate about this. It does take a lot of work. It’s not something you can start up and drop for two or three months,” she said, adding that it’s important to have people “who can get you into doors that normally wouldn’t be open. Don’t give up. Keep pushing until you reach that goal and until you get that program up and running.”

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