University of Cincinnati, Carl H. Lindner College of Business
Category: Engagement With Business
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
Accreditation Status: Accredited
Innovation Title: Back to Business
The Lindner College of Business launched the Back to Business program to help displaced professionals who have been laid off develop new skills—while updating their knowledge base—so they can quickly re-enter the work force.
Call to Action
The Back to Business initiative began in 2009 when many local professionals were being downsized due to the economic recession. Despite having years of practical work experience, many displaced individuals no longer had the requisite skills and knowledge to compete for the region’s best job opportunities. Moreover, these individuals did not have the financial resources available to pursue traditional business school offerings without the income and security provided by having a full-time position.
This was an issue facing the entire Cincinnati business community—not just the business school graduates. Accordingly, rather than restricting the program to alumni only, the school advertised the free program to all professionals who were in transition and proactively reached out to job searchers by promoting the program at local recruitment events.
It was anticipated that program participants would need the flexibility to network, interview, and/or work part-time during the week, so the school developed a very focused learning format that operated on successive Fridays and Saturdays. This allowed participants to continue their job search activities while simultaneously utilizing the class sessions to augment their business knowledge, enhance their professional credentials (program graduates receive a zero-credit certificate), and renew their sense of confidence.
The program has been so successful (85 percent of participants receive a full-time offer within three months of completing the program) that the school continues to offer the program at least once per year. The curriculum is continually refined by adding lectures on new, cutting-edge topics such as digital marketing, data analytics, and cross-cultural management.
The Back to Business schedule has been refined with each iteration, but each installment consists of a welcome/networking event followed by four weeks of classes and a concluding graduation ceremony. Classes are held on successive Fridays and Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the college’s executive center.
Each session consists of 35 participants who must complete an application in order to be considered for the program. Participants have an average of 17 years of work experience (40 percent of them have a graduate degree) and come from diverse backgrounds and industries and represent a wide demographic range.
Four topics are covered in each week’s classes, so participants learn about 16 content areas before completing the program. Class sections focus on both functional areas (such as accounting, marketing, and project management) and cross-disciplinary topics (such as business analytics, social entrepreneurship, and “sensing” the future). The course material revolves around in-depth coverage of contemporary topics that are of key importance to today’s managers.
Classes are predominantly taught by faculty from the University of Cincinnati Lindner College of Business, but professors from other local universities and practicing business professionals are brought in to share their expertise.
The Back to Business program is orchestrated by its director (who is a Lindner faculty member) and supported by two assistants. All of the program faculty donate their time to both the university and the program participants. The total classroom seminar time that faculty members have donated to the program to date well exceeds 700 hours.
Since its inception, the Back to Business program has graduated more than 300 unemployed business professionals. The program’s most significant impact is the fact that more than 85 percent of its graduates have accepted a new full-time position within three months of completing the program. That translates to the re-employment of more than 250 displaced professionals within the Cincinnati business community.
On a more personal level, the program has also grown the professional networks of each of its many participants. In fact, a number of program cohorts have developed close relationships and continue to meet on a monthly basis and stay connected via social media.
Several of the program’s graduates have been so impacted by their participation in Back to Business that they now attend the graduation ceremony of each class and help support the overall initiative from a financial standpoint by donating funds to cover the cost of the food and drinks that are provided free of charge to program participants.
Other Back to Business graduates feel such a strong connection to the University of Cincinnati (including non-alumni) that they have since hired UC students and graduates to work for them and their companies.
The most recent Back to Business session concluded on October 29, 2016, and its impact is expected to continue the trends listed above. Due to the program’s ongoing successes and its impact on the local business community, the school fully expects to continue conducting additional Back to Business sessions in 2017 and beyond.