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Students sharpen their skills and improve the PCC work environment
Photos and Story by Christine Egan
In a new PCC course, students are learning skills that all employers are looking for: leading a project team, problem-solving through data analysis, creating and implementing a solution plan, and focusing on customer satisfaction.
Instructor Mary Schutten guided two teams of students enrolled in the new Workplace Continuous Improvement (CI) course to apply their organizational skills in transforming a disorganized Print Center room at PCC’s Southeast Campus into a functional work space. The new course is part of the college’s Management and Supervisory Development Program, which is designed for adults to hone their professional skills and knowledge in organizational and project management, relationship and team building, conflict resolution and cultural awareness.
“I split the class into two student teams and guided them in a hands-on learning experience,” explained Schutten. “We analyzed current conditions and data, built a solution plan and solicited the customer’s approval of the plan – in this case, Print Center Manager Tony George. The teams then physically implemented their plans during their final Saturday class in December,” she said.
To start the project, students learned how to apply a core CI methodology called Plan/Do/Check/Act. This approach is used internationally in manufacturing, healthcare, public institutions and in private corporations to continuously improve process and employee skills.
“I feel like we had a real life impact, and it made learning more concrete, fun and useful,” said Kendal Kelleher, a student in the class.
For the Print Center project, students implemented a second organizational tool called 5S, which is used to create a safe, clean, organized and high performance work space. The 5S tool – sort, straighten/set-in-order, shine (clean), standardize and sustain – guided students in developing a solution for the space based on customer input they had collected from faculty and staff.
Without a doubt, the room was in desperate need of an overhaul. During the “sort” step students discovered a box under the print table with four inches of teaching materials and an order form dated “September 2001.”
“We brainstormed ideas about how to organize the space to best fit our customers’ needs,” said student Alexus Jordan. “This has very possibly been the most productive, hands on class I have ever taken. I would recommend it to anyone looking to thrive in their current workplace, or even just in life.”
And results stemming from the students’ work were impressive.
“The students did a super job,” said George. “They listened to all their customers and did a great deal of work. This project benefits all of us.”
Schutten agrees. “The students learned what it takes to build a team and work through an issue that impacts more than a hundred PCC employees. This class gives students the opportunity to immediately apply the practical skills they learn.”