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Mercer puts new emphasis on lifelong learning

By H.M. Cauley, For the AJC #atlanta-ga

As work life in the time of coronavirus has shifted, many employees have been re-evaluating and reconsidering their career options. Helping people retrain and retool for new opportunities is precisely what Jeff Wolfe was hired to do a year ago, when he took the lead of Mercer University’s Center for Executive Education.

Based on the Atlanta campus in northern DeKalb County, Wolfe became the director of a center that has offered continuing education and lifelong learning courses for years, but without the direction of a dedicated executive.

“In the past, the program has been led by faculty members who were not only overseeing Executive Education; they typically had a full load of teaching as well,” said Wolfe. “One of the important aspects of this position is having someone attentive to it on a full-time basis who can run existing programs and look at new ones. And we’ve had a number of people reach out to us about learning new skills around starting their own business or getting back into the workforce.”

That feedback has inspired many of the courses being designed for early 2021. Among them: entrepreneurship, change management, cybersecurity, music production, and leveraging technology and analytics for financial innovation. Wolfe is working with experts to create and implement programs for the public, as well as creating custom workshops and seminars for corporate clients.

Two new programs are already on the fall schedule. The first begins Sept. 12 and will educate participants on the FAA regulations around commercial drone use.

“Filmmakers, first responders, construction companies and agriculture, insurance and real estate industries are using drones now, so there is a market for learning about them,” said Wolfe. “If you’re a hobbyist, you don’t need a certification, but if you’re using drones for commercial purposes, you do. We’ll teach the rules and regulations to sit for the FAA test.”

The second new offering, the Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt certificate program, is a two-day, eight-hour session to explore the Lean Six management approach. “It’s about eliminating waste, improving efficiency and working with process improvement,” said Wolfe.

“It started from the manufacturing industry, but it’s applied to the service industries as well as they look at reducing costs and increasing profitability. And there are a lot of other avenues it can apply to,” he added.

In October, the center is sponsoring workshops on women in leadership, led by Mercer faculty. Topics include effective negotiation skills, mindful leadership and leading teams.

But not all the programs are designed for working participants, Wolfe noted.

“Many of our programs are directed to individuals in the workforce or entering the workforce,” he said, “but my objective is to develop a variety of lifelong learning opportunities for individuals ranging in age from late teens to those in their 80s.”

Information about Mercer’s Executive Education opportunities is online at

business.mercer.edu/centers-initiatives/executive-education.

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