Micro-credential pilot program celebrates first cohort with Belden Inc.

March 14, 2023 |

A new program is available for corporations who want to attract, develop and promote employees.

Indiana University East developed a five-week, non-credit micro-credential course, Certificate of Completion in Professionalism.

The micro-credential program is a self-paced, online course to prepare employees for additional responsibilities with a goal of possible promotion within their own companies.

Shawn Scalf of Belden Inc. talks with Kara Bellew, director of the Office of Career Services and Internships at IU East, during the certification celebration on March 10.

In partnership with Belden Inc., IU East launched the pilot program at the start of this spring semester.

Ten employees enrolled in the program received their certificate of completion during a celebration ceremony held at Belden on March 10. The certificates were presented by Interim Chancellor Michelle Malott and RJ Hampton, plant manager at Belden.

During the certification ceremony Malott congratulated the participants for earning their certifications.

“You should be commended for growing professionally and personally,” Malott said. “Learning is a lifetime endeavor and IU East is here to support you through your journey if you wish to continue it.”

Doug Brenneke, vice president of operations at Belden, offered his congratulations as well.

“This is a great display of Belden values and work ethic,” Brenneke said. “This program is an example of our ability to work as a team and to work together with a great partner like IU East.”

Photos from the certification ceremony are available on IU East Facebook.

The course was developed by Jean Harper, interim associate vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, and Kara Bellew, director of the Office of Career Services and Internships.

Bellew is the lead instructor for the course in addition to co-instructors contributing discussion topics throughout the program. Co-instructors are Cassandra Miller, career services specialist for the Office of Career Services and Internships, and Dean of Students Amy Jarecki.

“One of the biggest concerns I hear from local employers is the lack of soft or ‘employability’ skills their employees (or applicants for employment) are displaying,” Bellew said. “We hope that employers can use this program to attract employees interested in professional growth and increase the skills of their current employees so they can promote from within.”

As part of the online course, students discuss a variety of topics from using social media and dressing for the workplace to the importance of communication, using technology in the workplace, managing professional relationships and goal setting. Bellew added other topics cover presenting yourself professionally, conflict resolution and transitioning into a leadership role.

“In the near future, we plan to have a variety of different topics that will allow the employer to choose what is most relevant to their organization,” Bellew said. “This course with Belden hits a variety of topics starting with more entry level information like dressing for success and into deeper topics such as using emotional intelligence when managing professional relationships and setting professional S.M.A.R.T. goals.”

S.M.A.R.T. goals are set by parameters that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound to achieve set objectives within an obtainable time frame.

Harper noted that the micro-credential program is part of connecting IU East to the local community in ways that benefit employers and employees.

“We very much want to build a program that enriches the lives and careers of residents in our service area,” Harper said. “Part of the mission of IU East is to dedicate our energies toward preparing all of our students for the opportunities of the 21st century, and these micro-credentials will work toward that goal.”

April Gough, manager of Human Resources for Belden in Richmond, said the corporation encourages ongoing learning and development throughout an employee’s career.

“Upskilling is important for employees to grow personally and professionally as they move into leadership roles throughout their Belden career,” Gough said.

Employees are selected by the corporation for participation based on the company’s criteria. For Belden, a baccalaureate degree is not a requirement to participate.

Gough said Belden was fortunate to be chosen to partner with IU East to pilot the micro-credential program.

“IU East is showing employees that continuing education does not always mean that you must complete a college degree,” Gough said. “IU East has many learning opportunities and credentials that can be earned without the requirement of completing a degree. This is an attractive option to those who want to grow and develop but not commit to a degree plan.”

Gough said the micro-credential program fit into Belden’s developed succession plan for employee advancement.

“As part of our succession plan, we developed the associate supervisor role. When current supervisors leave or retire, we have associate supervisors ready to move into the supervisor role. For growth and development, we chose our associate supervisors to pilot the first cohort of this program,” Gough said. “Going into a leadership position of employees that were your peers is a difficult transition. We want to provide as much training and support as possible to help them to be successful supervisors.”

From the Participants
Shawn Scalf appreciates an opportunity to upskill while saving his downtime for his family.

As a full-time dad involved with his sons’ after school activities and team sports, an opportunity for furthering his skills as an employee had to meet his hectic schedule demands, all while bringing value to his professional career.

Marquez Jones of Richmond looks at his Certificate of Completion in Professionalism, with Jean Harper, interim associate vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, and Doug Brenneke, vice president of operations at Belden Inc.

In the micro-credential program, he found that combination.

Scalf lives in Richmond. He is the production scheduler and wire mill supervisor at the Belden plant. In explaining his role with the company, Scalf controls the flow on incoming and outgoing orders. In short, he oversees the available machinery capacity to operator coverage in his area to ensure employees are staffed to cover customer orders on time.

Though his job is demanding, he never felt the micro-credential course took away from his responsibilities at the company or his time with his family at home.

“The course was very easy to keep up with and never once did I feel like I had so much to do that I couldn’t keep up with the requirements for the course,” Scalf said.

Brandy Bell of Hagerstown, Indiana, is an associate supervisor/cell coordinator at Belden. She has worked for the company for 13 years, starting on the floor running extruders to taking on more responsibilities including as a supervisor.

Through the certification program, Bell found more ways to use her skills. She found the course to be helpful for any professional in any age group or ability.

“I feel this program helped me to be more aware of skills I actually already had and that I was underutilizing, and how best to put them into practice,” Bell said.

Susan Gentry of Richmond is an environmental health and safety associate supervisor for Belden. She started working for the company seven years ago as a machine operator with no factory experience. Three years ago, she moved into her current position as an environmental health and safety assistant. “I help keep the plant in compliance with safety regulation mandates from OSHA, IDEM, and of course from our internal policies as well,” she said.

Gentry is now looking at retirement within the next 10 years. She said she found the first few weeks of the micro-credential course provided a review on topics while the last two weeks were most beneficial and offered new information for her to use in her current role.

Belden Inc. employees participated in IU East’s micro-credential program, Certificate of Completion in Professionalism. The five-week, online course in upskilling is designed specifically for local and regional corporations seeking to promote employees from within to supervisory roles.

From left to right, Back row: Marquez Jones, RJ Hampton (plant manager at Belden), Michelle Malott (interim vice chancellor at IU East), Susan Gentry, TJ Rivard (interim executive vice chancellor for Academic Affairs at IU East), Jerry Maiden and Doug Brenneke (vice president of plant operations at Belden) Front row: Michelle Wicker, Douglas Skinner, Tony Lawhorn, Kayleb Bray and Shawn Scalf.

“I appreciate that my employer is willing to help us continue our education with courses like this,” Gentry said. “The ‘do as my time allows’ factor helped me a great deal because the position I am in doesn’t necessarily allow for a set schedule that would allow me to attend a traditional classroom.”

At the end of the course, participants provided feedback on the pilot program through a survey.

Scalf reflected on many of the topics and how he plans to implement the skills he learned. For one, he said knowing his elevator speech and being prepared when asked will be a big improvement to his introduction following the course. Similarly, he feels the course provided the tools to enhance his LinkedIn profile will dramatically change his introduction to others. He also found the section on social media to be beneficial.

Another area Scalf emphasized was on providing emotional awareness. “Just understanding the way I react or respond to others in a professional setting. I have always been good at this but since this course, it just makes you think of ways to be better,” he said.

Marquez Jones moved to Richmond from Memphis, Tennessee. He is an associate supervisor and has worked at Belden since 2011. He supervises and coordinates the plastic mix department.

Jones also found the section on emotional awareness to be most useful. The five-week program helped him to upskill in areas as an associate supervisor by “transitioning into my new leadership role and helping me deal with conflicts and how to handle the situation.” He also said he is applying skills learned to his personal life in the area of self-management in order “to be able to handle my emotion better around my family.”

Scalf also appreciated the section on goal setting.

“While most people are good at setting goals, many fall short at setting three or four-stage goals as covered in the topic,” he said. “For example, I have set yearly goals or even a three-year goal, but never a five-year goal with ‘XYZ’ needing to be done in a year and ‘XYZ’ needing to be done in two years, and so on. Doing this will allow you to keep track of where you are at each stage in meeting your goal.”

Jones said the course fit the values Belden strives for, and he would recommend it to others.

“This gives you the tools and understanding for leadership growth,” Jones said.

About Belden
Belden Inc. delivers the infrastructure that makes the digital journey simpler, smarter and secure. We’re moving beyond connectivity, from what we make to what we make possible through a performance-driven portfolio, forward-thinking expertise and purpose-built solutions. With a legacy of quality and reliability spanning 120-plus years, we have a strong foundation to continue building the future. We are headquartered in St. Louis and have manufacturing capabilities in North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. For more information, visit us at belden.com; follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

About the Micro-Credential Program
IU East has designed a non-credit micro-credential course in “upskilling” specifically for local and regional corporations seeking to promote employees from within to supervisory roles. Our five-week, online, asynchronous course with real-life feedback offers participants training in written communication, speaking skills, interpersonal interactions, and other fundamentals to succeed as a professional. Working with local industry, we tailor this course to specific needs, with the goal of increasing retention, and enhancing recruitment.

IU East’s upskilling micro-credential project grew out of in-depth discussions with local corporations about the need to retain valuable employees, recruit suitable candidates, and grow local talent. Identifying specific skill gaps provided the basis for this non-credit micro-credential. These non-credit micro-credentials are also a steppingstone toward credit-earning micro-credentials, clusters of courses focused on specific skills sets, a growing initiative at IU East. The broader impact of offering micro-credentials is to provide tangible evidence to potential employers of valuable, employable skills.

IU East’s non-credit upskilling micro-credential project makes use of online learning approaches that allow participants to access course materials from mobile devices, tablets, laptops, or desktops. The five-week course is divided each week into three 20-minute sections, which can be completed in flexible increments of time that fit participants’ schedules. Additionally, participants complete a weekly reflection piece that receives timely feedback from course instructors. This asynchronous flexibility in modality and design supported by real-time feedback supports successful learning.

This project aligns with IU East’s Community Engagement initiatives, which include receiving “feedback on employer hiring needs and developing subsequent plans of action” and identifying “challenging areas for area employers with regard to employee talent pipelines and employee readiness.” By putting the non-credit upskilling micro-credential project in place, and working with local employers to customize future offerings, IU East will work as a partner in community development in our service area.

IU East is also building credit-earning micro-credentials, clusters of existing courses designed to provide verifiable credentials in vital skills. Upon completion of micro-credentials, students earn digital badges transferrable to online career platforms. Credit-earning micro-credentials help recruit new students, attending part- or full-time, and retain degree-seeking students progressing toward degree completion by validating successful milestones.

For more information on the Certificate of Completion in Professionalism course and how employees could participate, email Kara Bellew at karabell@iu.edu.