VSU Develops Initiative with Miller Electric Company to Offer Higher Education to the Company’s 2,000 Employees

Staff Report From Valdosta CEO

Friday, June 14th, 2019

Valdosta State University, as part of its unwavering commitment to serving as a resource for industries in the region and beyond, has worked with Miller Electric Company, a national electrical contractor based in Jacksonville, Florida, to offer the company’s 2,000 employees the opportunity to obtain a bachelor’s degree through the university.
Starting in Fall 2019, any Miller Electric employee can apply for admission to VSU to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Education in workforce education and development or a Bachelor of Science in office administration and technology. Both degree programs are offered fully online, allowing flexibility and convenience for the company’s employees, who are also eligible for reimbursement of tuition by Miller Electric.
“We believe strongly in the importance of lifelong learning for all of our employees,” said Henry Brown, CEO of Miller Electric. “Many of our employees started their career with our apprenticeship program and have great technical skills. Giving them the opportunity to supplement their core technical education with a well-rounded college education gives them the background they need for success in our fast-moving industry.”
VSU faculty and administration from multiple areas — coordinated by Dr. Charles Backes, professor of adult and career education who spearheaded the initiative — have worked closely with Miller Electric for the past two years to develop specialized degree options for the company’s employees. Individuals who have already completed an electrical apprenticeship can earn up to 42 credit hours toward their degree. Additionally, VSU added a technical leadership track to its Bachelor of Science in Education in workforce education and development. The new track, which was developed for the Miller Electric initiative but is open to any VSU student, is designed to provide the skills and knowledge necessary for strong leadership and career advancement in the areas of workforce development and training, project management, and technical communication.
“By working closely with Miller Electric to help their employees become students at VSU and pursue their degrees, the university is upholding its commitment to providing opportunities for students in the greater region and to helping meet the educational needs of the area’s business community,” said Dr. Robert T. Smith, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs and professor of mathematics.
Miller Electric’s motivation for the initiative stems from the company’s core values.
“We believe that developing a strong culture of lifelong learners benefits individuals and their families, as well as the company,” said Patty Keenan, chief learning officer of Miller Electric. “We also believe that to succeed in today's fast-paced, complex, and ever-changing world, we all need to learn to be resilient and adaptable to change. Miller has a core value of stewardship, which we define as our responsibility to take care of the company for future generations. Investing in our people who choose to devote their time and talent here is one of the ways we endeavor to be good stewards while strengthening our company for the long run.”
VSU has already held two information sessions on the initiative at Miller Electric headquarters in Jacksonville, allowing employees to understand the opportunity available to them.
Backes said he is thrilled to see adult learners reconsider higher education after possibly giving up that option years ago because of family or financial reasons.
“There’s a million different reasons that our adults will tell us as to why they didn’t go to college when they were younger,” Backes said. “And now all of a sudden, even though they’re 30 years old, 40 years old, 60 years old, it’s their chance. It’s their turn. We understand the non-traditional learner, and we’ve got special programs in place that meet their needs.”