By Christine Imbs
As Bob Dylan once sang, “The times they are a-changin’.”
Today, technology and a global economy have raised the bar dramatically.
To continue producing a highly qualified workforce and keep businesses
from growing in the region, educational institutions and businesses are
coming together—both literally and figuratively. What follows are just a
few examples of these unique partnerships.
A Fortune 500 HQ
Goes to College:
Express Scripts and UMSL
In the summer of 2007, Express Scripts became the first Fortune 500 Company to locate its headquarters on a university campus—the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Today, it serves as a model for other such partnerships and, according to UMSL Chancellor Thomas George, the potential these partnerships brings to the table is limitless.
“There are already a number of collaborative efforts underway between various academic units at UMSL and Express Scripts,” he says. “And we’re seeing those relationships increase rapidly. I believe this is the way of the future.”
Since arriving on campus, Express Scripts employees have acted as guest lecturers on campus, and they started an internship program which has attracted over 300 UMSL student applicants. Express Scripts has offered proprietary data for use in some UMSL computer science courses and in return UMSL is developing software for the company. Together they’ve created a project management course attended by over 100 Express Scripts employees, a legal issues course, and a professional MBA program tailored to the Express Scripts environment, which allows participation, by senior executives.
This is a win-win proposition,” says Michael Holmes, executive vice president and chief administrative officer for Express Scripts. “It allows us to have the progressive thinking of the university environment and at the same time they gain by having interaction with the business world.”
A Universe of Possibilities:
American Red Cross and SIUE
Following the Express Scripts/UMSL lead, the American Red Cross has announced plans to build a 170,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art, centralized blood manufacturing and testing facility on a 15-acre site on SIUE’s University Park. James Pennekamp, special assistant to the chancellor for regional economic development and executive director, University Park, SIUE Inc., says he believes partnering with AMRC just made sense.
“We have a very robust health sciences component complete with nursing, pharmacy and dentistry schools,” he says. “Of course we’re not a research institution like UMSL, but we do have that capability. So given their workforce needs and the capabilities of the university in health sciences in particular, this partnership was a no-brainer.”
Pennekamp adds that AMRC has signed off on the land arrangement and they are currently in the design phase.
“We may not have a building up yet like Express Scripts, but there’s a lot of enthusiasm on both sides and a whole universe of possibilities before us.”
A State-of-the-Art Partnership:
CORTEX, Washington University and Saint Louis University
The CORTEX, Washington University and Saint Louis University connection takes a slightly different approach in terms of its partnership. In this case CORTEX—the Center of Research, Technology and Entrepreneurial Exchange—provides state-of-the-art facilities to university researchers and biotechnology startups. The result? University researchers have the space and up-to-date laboratory facilities to continue their work; research that develops into commercial entities needn’t look outside the region to prosper; and St. Louis is becoming a viable biotechnology contender.
Jennifer Lodge, associate dean for research at Saint Louis University, says in partnering with CORTEX they are helping to build the infrastructure and develop St. Louis’ scientific community. And this benefits all the institutions in the area.
“It provides a dynamic scientific environment for all our investigators to work in,” she explains. “And of course there’s the entrepreneurial space it provides for investigators who ultimately build businesses.”
Samuel Wickline, M.D., professor of medicine, physics, biomedical engineering, and cell biology and physiology at Washington University, is a prime example of the partnership’s objective. Wickline’s research group—the Consortium for Translational Research in Advanced Imaging and Nanotechnology—moved into CORTEX so they could continue their research in nanotechnology and remain in the St. Louis area.
“On campus we were crowded and couldn’t expand,” he explains. “Also, our people were scattered across the campus making communication difficult. As it happens, communication is extraordinarily key to cutting-edge science. This new facility has improved our ability to do both. Without it, we may have had to move.”
Collaborating at The MET:
St. Louis Community College and the Pharmaceutical Community
The partnership between the St. Louis Community College and the pharmaceutical manufacturing community also involves a mutual facility. But in this case the facility is the Metropolitan Education and Training Center in Wellston.
“We train individuals who perhaps aren’t prepared for collegiate-level work but who want a career in biotechnology,” says Steve Long, SLCC Director of Workforce and Community Development. “They attend classes at the MET Center and do lab work at our Florissant Valley campus. Then once they’ve completed their training, they’re placed at Pfizer, Centocor, or one of the science technology staffing firms.”
Long adds that partnerships such as this helps them produce a skilled workforce for the region.
“We engage the business community and identify what their needs are so we know what skills are necessary in order for people to get viable employment,” he says. “It’s also a way to make sure these companies are successful and stay in St. Louis.”
SLCC also hopes to occupy space in the new biotech business incubator at the Danforth Plant Science Center where they will train individuals as biotechnology technicians.
A Virtual Partnership:
St. Louis College
In a sense, the partnership between Express Scripts and the St. Louis College of Pharmacy also involves a mutual space. This space, however, is more of a virtual space.
“We collaborated with Express Scripts on DrugDigest.org, a drug information website,” says Tom Patton, Ph.D., SLCP President. “We have faculty on site at Express Scripts that help maintain it. It’s gotten some very positive, even national attention as a very authoritative and accurate source of drug information for both healthcare professionals and the general public.”
SLCP also partners with Walgreens and BJC Healthcare as well as Express Scripts on programs designed to introduce kids to a pharmacy career. In each program, students visit partner pharmacies or, as in the case with Walgreens, actually get to work there.
“There is a tremendous shortage of pharmacists nationwide,” Patton says. “All segments of the industry are looking for ways to increase the pool of qualified people and the diversity of that pool.”
In its eighth year, the Career Explorers Program with Walgreens boasts about 175 student participants with more than half enrolling in a pharmacy program. The program involving BJC and Express Scripts is just getting started this year.
“I believe these types of partnerships are critically important,” he adds. “They not only help us train our students, but on the side of these businesses, it helps in recruiting future employees.”
By Christine Imbs
Like the weather in St. Louis, the way we do business today changes rapidly. To help companies maintain a high-quality workforce able to meet today’s business challenges, Fontbonne University’s OPTIONS partners with corporations to offer employees convenient, practical and accelerated courses of study.
“Over the years, partnerships have become more and more important to corporations who want specific areas of focus for their employees,” says Jerry Bladdick, associate vice president of graduate and adult enrollment for Fontbonne OPTIONS. “And we have a long history of corporate partnerships.”
For over 20 years, Bladdick says Fontbonne OPTIONS has taught onsite classes at the Fenton Chrysler Plant. Also, they’ve partnered with SSM Health Care to design a degree program specifically to enhance SSM’s tuition reimbursement policy.
“They wanted to make certain their employees have the opportunity to further their education without paying out-of-pocket or taking out student loans,” he explains. “Also, because many of their employees work 12-hour shifts, we take our instructors to them so it’s more convenient.”
In addition, they’ve designed programs specifically geared toward the SSM Health Care environment. They’ve done the same for the Boeing Corporation.
“Boeing is such an international company that they need specific programs,” says Bladdick. “We designed a Master’s of Science degree in Supply Chain Management that we teach onsite along with our MBA and Master’s of Management programs. Also we offer online classes to their employees nationwide in languages and culture; everything from Mandarin Chinese to Russian.”
Bladdick says in general, corporate employees are well educated, but may need to update their skills. They may also want to expand their education to further their careers.
“It simply isn’t like it used to be,” he adds. “You can’t just get your degree and that’s it. It’s called life-long learning. In today’s business world, it’s how you keep on the cutting edge of things.”