Portland Business Journal: How Portland State University is educating and training the workforce of the future
Author: Cliff Allen
Posted: December 10, 2019

To read the original, visit the Portland Business Journal.

When used to its full advantage, being in an urban setting can have powerful impacts on a university’s curriculum. Located in the heart of downtown Portland, The School of Business at Portland State University works hand in hand with local business leaders to prepare students with forward-thinking, industry-informed course content. These partnerships give PSU students next-generation skills and their future employers a distinct competitive edge in the marketplace.

Business curriculum weaves in analytics and technology

Rapidly developing technology demands new ways of conducting business. When industry representatives told PSU that their analytics and marketing teams struggled to communicate effectively with each other, The School of Business developed a Business Intelligence and Analytics Graduate Certificate to help address the issue.

One area that’s crucial to the future of business — and is growing exponentially — is managing, using and understanding “big data.” Data greatly influences how businesses hire, manage, develop and retain employees. The school’s HR Analytics Graduate Certificate can offer needed skills in data analytics, both to seasoned human resources professionals and those just entering the field.

Within PSU, technology is driving innovative approaches and collaboration among colleges. Artificial intelligence and blockchain are now approached cooperatively across campus. PSU’s new online Business Blockchain Certificate is a prime example, as it includes coursework from the computer science department.

As a public digital ledger for recording, managing and controlling transactions, blockchain is becoming pervasive across a range of industries. Intel, Oracle, Nike and Mercy Corps use it, and it’s gaining appeal in banking, supply chain management, healthcare and real estate. In a 2019 Deloitte survey of executives worldwide, 80% said blockchain will be critical or important to their company’s priorities, and 54% of surveyed executives in the U.S. are actively hiring for blockchain skills. Professionals that serve these companies — like lawyers, tax consultants and auditors — must understand blockchain to be effective at their jobs.

The Business Blockchain Certificate draws upon partnerships with Oregon’s blockchain leaders to create courses that include relevant use cases, guest speakers and industry mentors. This prepares students to evaluate blockchain applications across a variety of business environments.

Innovative learning strategies

PSU knows the future of education is meeting students where they are, and many of today’s learners have a variety of needs. Busy professionals trying to increase their worth to an organization can’t always attend in-person classes. In addition, a generation raised on YouTube and TED Talks videos feels comfortable learning online. The School of Business provides certificate coursework and graduate degree programs online and on a part-time schedule to provide flexibility and increase student retention.

Business Intelligence and Analytics, HR Analytics, and Business Blockchain were created as certificates to bring these programs to market faster. While they pair well with undergraduate or graduate degrees, certificates also serve as standalone credentials that allow students to be laser-focused in a particular area. Students may also stack credentials together to further their careers and enhance their value to organizations. These credentials give students mastery of today’s tools and technologies while at the same time building a solid basis of analytical skills that will serve them well into their careers.

Industry relationships give PSU and its partners another advantage: they create a multitude of opportunities for experiential learning. The undergraduate and graduate capstone experiences give students project-based learning with local companies. In addition, PSU CO-OP, our new cooperative education program, expanded this year to serve full-time second-year MBA students. PSU CO-OP students do paid, meaningful work that aligns with their specialization. In turn, companies get a chance to “test drive” the student’s skills and abilities. If the employer decides to hire them full-time, their PSU CO-OP employees are productive from day one.

As the talent pipeline for regional employers, PSU’s strong alliances with industry partners strengthen Oregon’s workforce of the future by equipping students with relevant, practical and competitive skills.