Growing up, many of us were predisposed to the type of education we would experience through cultural, familial, and socio-economic backgrounds. While never a final deciding factor, it is more common than not that students live what they have experienced. Some students have the ability and desire to break the cycle of lack of education or under-education on their own, others are unable to do so and need help.​

Current State of Affairs

Today’s economic trends and regulatory environments have changed, forcing many schools and colleges to downsize or cease operations altogether. Recent media coverage is satiated with reports of proprietary, or for-profit, schools closing leaving mass numbers of students without a path to success. There are many varied opinions surrounding the recent changes in regulatory oversight of these schools, the actions taken, and the sanctions that have brought these schools to closure. There are valid points to all sides of the arguments made. However, an immediate and urgent concern is for the students affected. The decisions being made to impose these sanctions and penalties, closing a vast number of schools, are being implemented without a broad scope view of the current and future students that will be affected. Additionally, not being addressed is the inability for employers to fill technical positions with qualified candidates or promotable current employees.

​Challenges for Students

The proprietary schools are often populated with the students who are unable to attend public or private universities due to the lack of academic achievement in secondary school, personal and family life situations, financial roadblocks, and a plethora of other challenges. These students need to have flexible schedules, specialized teaching methods and attention, a system of advising and guidance, financial assistance or planning, and courses that will enable them to enter a career field quickly or improve their current employment status among other individualized needs. So where will these students go and who will be there to help them meet these employment goals?

Challenges for Employers

Employers are concerned with the lack of promotable current employees and available skilled applicants necessary to fill ever-growing technical positions and maintain a consistent, well-trained staff. These employers often find themselves in need of specialized training or professional development pathways for their workforce and do not have the information, time, or finances to have in-house training functions. Where can employers look to for help in providing customized training and professional development for new and tenured employees?

A New Initiative in Adult Education

Enter the “Training Boutique” style educational institution. As defined by, a boutique is a “Relatively small firm that provides a limited range of very specialized goods or services.” The idea of the Boutique style educational institution has come about as a desire to assist both students and employers with a strict focus on customized training and employment outcomes.The Training Boutique works directly with employers to determine training needs and develop programs to meet these needs. Career enhancement training is delivered by providing an opportunity to gain knowledge in an employer-desired field, while providing the employers the talent they need to keep their businesses operating effectively.

What are the keys to student success at the Training Boutique?

As a small independently owned school, the administration of the Training Boutique has the ability to effectively manage the student population by ensuring appropriate attention to the student, employer, and quality operations. The training provided includes employer-sponsored training, customized corporate training, short-term specialized courses, certification preparation training, and by providing an on-site approved certification testing center.
​The programs offered are industry-current and often customized by the employers to ensure students learn all the necessary concepts to be successful in the field of study. By staying abreast of local industry needs and changes, the Training Boutique can provide up-to-date, short term courses and implement changes and improvements quickly and effectively. The faculty is comprised of field experts who are selected based on knowledge, skills, experience, and their ability to effectively represent the culture of the Training Boutique. ​As a full-service training center, the personal attention provided to the students does not end at program completion. Post-completion assistance is provided in certification preparation courses to assist students in passing their respective certification exam. ​

Why the focus on Certification?

Employers place a great amount of value in employees and applicants who possess professional certification in the field of expertise. This certification is both qualitative and quantitative proof that the individual had the knowledge, skills, and abilities to be successful in their position. Students who have earned professional certification feel a sense of pride and confidence in their knowledge of the field, which often translates into confidence in landing the job or gaining promotion. Additional benefits of professional certifications are increased income, professional development requirements to keep certification current, and ensuring the right people are filling the right positions.
​​The professional certification exam process can be very taxing and stressful for candidates. Each exam has its own methodologies to determine tester competency and these can vary substantially depending on the provider. Many testers are unable to pass the exams on the first attempt due to lack of preparedness to sit for the exam, as well as dealing with test anxiety. To minimize these challenges, the Training Boutique provides specialized certification preparation seminars focusing on each individual professional certification. In addition, the availability of the on-site testing centers provides the students a level of comfort with taking the exam since they are already comfortable with the facility and will not have to travel to a new location, sometimes quite a distance, with which they are not familiar.

The Future

These Training Boutiques are taking a back-to-basics, holistic approach to helping students achieve the skills needed to enter the workforce. These institutions will prove to be highly desired, by operating as one-stop shops in helping students achieve short-term employment and preparing them for promotion with their current employers. By staying small and specialized, these training centers will provide the personalized education and tools that so many of the larger institutions claim to provide, but do not always deliver.​​Audra Kinney
President, Sun Training Center