CETC expands relationship with Nestlé Purina to deliver Power BI training to South American employees

by | Nov 16, 2020

Changes made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic allowed instructors at UMSL's Computer Education and Training Center to work with clients outside the region.
Computer Education and Training Center

The Computer Education and Training Center in west St. Louis County can help students gain the computer skills necessary to meet current and future technological challenges in the workplace. Its instructors have worked with corporate clients such as Nestlé Purina to customize classes to address an organization’s specific needs. (Photo by August Jennewein)

The Computer Education and Training Center at the University of Missouri–St. Louis excels at working with businesses to tailor training in software and systems to meet the needs of their teams.

Nestlé Purina is one such company. It has worked with CETC over the past three years to train about 500 of its St. Louis-area employees in Power BI, a business analytics service developed by Microsoft.

Those trainings began on-site at a technology room in Nestlé Purina’s downtown office but had to be adapted to remote instruction earlier this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That shift worked so well, that it presented an opportunity to expand the relationship beyond the region. Last month, an UMSL instructor also taught Power BI classes for 10 Nestlé Purina employees from their teams in Argentina and Colombia.

“It worked great when we were able to all get together at the same time and be in the same room, but it’s still been very effective, and people are still getting the knowledge that they need,” said Christopher Micena, the Director of Innovation in Digital Manufacturing for Nestlé Purina PetCare North America. “Now that it’s working very well remotely, we’re not geographically limited anymore. It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting in your house in St. Louis or in South America. As long as you speak English and the instructor is able to convey the message accordingly, we can open it to whoever needs it. That has really accelerated what we’re trying to do with building our digital muscle.”

CETC has been aiding adults looking to update their skills to stay current or get ahead in an evolving workforce since its founding 35 years ago as UMSL’s Microcomputer Program.

Its course offerings are always evolving along with the business environment and currently include classes on database management, Office 365, web development, desktop publishing, data visualization, data analysis, SharePoint, SQL and programming.

Some students seek out instruction independently to enhance their resumes while others are directed to the center by their employers, and they can pursue one of nine specialized chancellor’s certificates.

“We don’t give tests or grades,” said Allan Crean, the center’s director. “The focus is more on learning the skills, and our students are motivated because they’ll have a project to work or they’re looking for new employment. They have something they need to accomplish, and it’s our job to help them. By setting up the classes that way, we’re able to focus on the skills.

Crean and the team of instructors are big believers in hands-on learning and, before the pandemic, had tended to emphasize in-person instruction in their office near the intersection of I-270 and Manchester in west St. Louis County. That is, unless they were providing customized training for corporate clients such as Nestlé Purina at their headquarters.

It was about three years ago that Micena and his colleagues started looking for ways to teach their employees how to use Power BI for data analysis and run reports with the software.

“We scoured the web,” he said. “I must have personally looked in probably a dozen different places for who could provide this training, and it was not a great spot to be in because we knew we needed the training, but we didn’t want it to be IT centric.”

Most classes they found were highly technical and beyond the scope of what the company was expecting from the majority of its end users. But the course at CETC was a little different, and they worked with the instructors to streamline it to meet Nestlé Purina’s needs.

“We held an introductory course in the morning, that was a four-hour class, and an intermediate class in the afternoon in another four-hour slot,” said Kate Moore, CETC’s associate director. “The next day, we held an advanced-level class. So, in two days, we offered three classes, customized to how they’re using Power BI.”

The classes were also offered at a price that made it cost-effective to train hundreds of staff members, and Nestlé Purina has been pleased with the results.

“It really made it very streamlined, and very, very consumable to our to our end users,” Micena said. “UMSL has just been wonderful in adapting with us and still providing top-notch education to our user community.”

Steve Walentik

Steve Walentik

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