UTM continuing education classes offer skills training

This story was originally published on YourMississaugaBiz.com.

Local entrepreneur Bill Smalley said that more managers and business professionals should think about taking continuing education classes.

“Employers look for people that want to better themselves,” he told YourMississaugaBiz.com. “It’s a desirable trait.”

The president and CEO of Oakville-based consultancy firm Route Five International Inc. speaks from personal experience. Smalley has been an instructor at the continuing studies program at the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) for the past three years, teaching interspace negotiation skills to hundreds of students.

Smalley said there are many personal and professional benefits to be gained from taking courses like his at UTM.

“I’ve had people exchange business cards and keep in touch afterwards and help build their networks,” he said speaking about his students. “People go back to their existing jobs and do better. And it can be fun.”

Smalley said a large number of the people who take his classes are international students.

He and other School of Continuing Studies instructors are able to factor in their professional experience as consultants, speakers and trainers in the corporate world into what they teach, Smalley said.

Some SCS courses are fairly short at only five to six weeks long. “You’ve got to make sure the content is useful and relevant,” Smalley said, emphasizing the addition of a lot of verbal content and practical casework in his classes.

Since all the instructors are still practicing business owners or professionals, Smalley said they’re helping the students understand the needs of employers and become more marketable and relevant.

“Really grounding the content in practical knowledge means when these students are being interviewed by these employers, they can see very clearly where they can fit in and help them,” Smalley said, citing his own experience teaching and training companies across North America for more than a decade. “And their learning curves are shorter once they do get hired.”

One practical approach Smalley uses is having his students take in content and theory and apply it to events in the news, such as a major union negotiation. “I’ll say, ‘How did they handle that? Is this a productive approach? What’s wrong with this picture?’” he said.

With a “vibrant” learning environment comprised of high-quality, driven people, Smalley said the students also get exposed to other cultures.

So far student feedback from Smalley’s courses has been unanimously positive, both in terms of enjoyment and improvements in their professional lives. he said, “It’s clear that students are actually using what they’re learning and it’s making a difference for them.”

Employers and managers should also highly encourage their staff to sign up for classes. “There’s really no downside,” he said. “The feedback I get from other instructors is that it’s a really good investment. People are pleasantly surprised.”

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