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ILP Institute Insider

February 9, 2011

Professional Education Long on Experience and Depth

Alice McCarthy

Every summer, between 800-900 science and technology professionals come to the MIT Cambridge campus to sample a variety of 40-50 continuing education programs intended to deepen their knowledge in a specific area directly related to their work, career, company, or organization. Known as Short Programs, they are just one of five professional education offerings available through MIT Professional Education established under the leadership of the MIT School of Engineering in 2002.

For a complete list of course offerings, please visit: http://web.mit.edu/professional/index.html.

Short Programs
The Short Programs are highly targeted non-degree, non-credit courses that run from 2-5 days during the summer. “The objective for these programs is to enable working professionals to deepen their knowledge and experience in a job-relevant subject matter,” says Clara Piloto; director of marketing & communications of MIT Professional Education. Programs are designed to meet the needs of a variety of industries ranging from the pharmaceutical industry to defense, oil and gas, and high-tech engineering.

Just within the past year, 47 MIT faculty members from 25 departments, centers, and labs led Short Programs. Dozens of others from outside of MIT – including government and business – contributed as additional session instructors. Together, they interacted with students from 475 companies and organizations located in 50 countries. “We are committed to furthering learning opportunities for those professionals engaged in some of the world’s greatest technical and scientific challenges,” says Bhaskar Pant, executive director of MIT Professional Education

One of them was Jody Council, a technology engineer at Pfizer who participated in the Fermentation Technology Short Program. Council chose to take this program following the recommendations of co-workers who had attended the same program years earlier. “And I knew of the great reputation of one of the Program’s lead instructor and wanted to benefit from hearing him speak,” Council says. He came away from the 5-day program impressed with the program’s relevant subject matter and the expertise of the instructors throughout the week. “It was just great to hear the interplay between the different scientists working on the same issues I am – like “scale up”—and how to bring genomics and metabolic engineering together.” Council adds that the program addressed issues he and his colleagues face every day and he was pleased to have learned some “tricks of the trade” to bring back to his own work.

For Peter Lawson, he did not have the benefit of previous recommendations to lead him to the summer Short Program on Sustainable Transportation. Lawson works with General Electric in the area of transportation and wanted to learn more about successful sustainable transportation strategies used by others.

“As I looked for opportunities to see what was going on in that space the MIT Short Program looked very topical,” Lawson recalls. He was not disappointed. His 3-day program involved subject area instructors from within MIT and externally, plus a team project that Lawson found very worthwhile. “The first part of the first day we toured the MIT campus and surrounding area on foot and by bus and looked at the variety of things causing logistics and transportation problems for the greater MIT campus area,” he explains. Teams were then formed to develop strategies to alleviate these in a sustainable manner taking into consideration cost and greenhouse gas impact. The team projects built throughout the program to the final day when each team presented their findings to a peer-review board. “I was really impressed that the board contained people from academia like MIT and Harvard and also from business and government, like the City of Boston,” says Lawson.

Lawson found the greatest benefit in the dialogue transacted within his team, between the teams and with the peer board and other speakers that came to speak. “Having a project like that was a great idea. It allowed you to think about the principles in the lecture part of the program and apply them to a real-world problem.”

Council and Lawson are both employed by current ILP members who enjoy a tuition discount. As part of their membership packages, ILP members receive a 15% discount on all MIT Professional Education Short Programs. To obtain the discount code, click here (you must be signed in to this website as an ILP member to access the code).The discount can be passed to all of the member’s employees in the company. “Our mission here at MIT Professional Education is to provide those engaged in science and technology worldwide a gateway to renowned MIT research, knowledge and expertise—through advanced educational programs designed for working professionals,” says Piloto. “In this way, we complement the goals of ILP.”

Advanced Study Program
Along with Short Programs, the MIT Professional Education office offers several other programs. The Advanced Study Program (ASP) is also targeted for technology and science professionals but participants—known as Advanced Study Program fellows – take regular MIT classes anywhere from one semester to one-year. “Many companies want their rising stars to do a deep dive in a certain subject area and then take that knowledge and expertise back to their company,” explains Piloto. Approximately 40 fellows attend the programs each year either on a part-time or full-time basis, allowing member companies to retain highly valued employees yet still expose them to an intensive educational experience.

Custom Programs
“Companies will ask us to bring one of our Short Programs to their corporate headquarters or in some way customize one of our Short Programs for their purposes,” says Piloto describing Professional Education’s Custom Program offering. Instead of coming to MIT, the Professional Education office would take these custom programs to an external company site where 25 or more employees would participate.”

International Programs
Within the past two years, Professional Education has been focusing aggressively on global interaction by expanding its services to an international audience. “Our intention is to have MIT knowledge and expertise serve industries across the world by connecting with people, universities, and companies abroad,” says Pant. ”It is part of contributing to the larger MIT strategic initiative to have a wider and more meaningful global impact.”

MIT Professional Education has begun offering Short Programs outside of the U.S. which are either open to the public or by invitation only, depending on the topic and ground arrangements Recent examples include events in October 2011 where 60 professionals in Chile took the Lean Enterprise Program and in September where 45 participants in Mexico attended a program on Supply Chain .

Career Reengineering
For those individuals who are seeking to relaunch a career, develop new skills, or to change industries, Professional Education offers its Career Reengineering Program, first designed in 2006 to help those with a science and technology background to either reenter the workforce after a job loss or time away or shift tracks from their current career path.

Similar to ASP, participants take degree courses at MIT over the course of a year. “People who are in career transition are looking for new skills or a new area to apply their scientific background to,” says Piloto. In addition to technical coursework, participants receive substantial professional development training from Professional Education instructors in the form of career building tools like resume writing, interviewing and networking. Each student finishes the Program by completing an internship at a company or a not-for-profit. Though the Program does not require full-time attendance, most participants choose this option to expedite their transition to a new career with endless possibilities.