WSU Tri-Cities expands course offerings to meet business needs

Washington State University Tri-Cities is rolling out professional training focused on the needs of Tri-City businesses.

The expanded workforce training program is offered in partnership with the city of Richland, Port of Benton and Visit Tri-Cities and falls within the professional development offerings at the WSU Tri-Cities Carson College of Business.

Classes are taught by WSU business faculty and are available for workers at all career levels and including executives who may not have an undergraduate or business degree. The noncredit courses are typically paid for by employers and generally cost hundreds of dollars rather than thousands.

The initial offerings include a class for wine tasting room servers and a business acumen course designed to introduce students to the basics of managing an organization’s finances. 

“We’re trying to fulfill needs,” said Joan Giese, associate professor of marketing and director of lifelong learning at the WSU Tri-Cities Carson College of Business. The goal is to provide professional development for anyone who needs it, regardless of whether they have an undergraduate or other degree.

The growing list of courses was developed in partnership with industry leaders interested in training and retraining workers.

Wine tasting program

The wine tasting room program was the first to launch, with the first course offered in 2021 in consultation with wine industry leaders. It offers eight hours of online and on-demand training and culminates with a certificate. About 75 have signed up, with students hailing from across the state.

Students learn the basics of wine and about Washington’s role as a wine producing region. Graduates are equipped to present wine, make recommendations and suggestions about food pairings, all with an eye to boosting tasting room sales.

The course costs $249. As with the other offerings, fees typically are paid by the employer.

Business-focused courses

Business Acumen is a monthlong series of online and in-person classes designed for managers and owners. The course covers financial statements as well as identifying investment projects and managing working capital.

DJ Fairhurst, associate profession of finance and management science, is the instructor. The fee is $1,295.

Fundamentals of Business is another certificate program aimed at students who are entering the business world without a business degree. It is not focused on entrepreneurs but gives a foundation in how businesses function and how to create products that are valuable to customers.

The eight-hour course is available online and on-demand. The fee is $349.

Cultivating Service Excellence is the newest course and is expected to begin in November. It will be an eight-hour on-demand class that cuts across industries. The focus is on creating caring communities and finding sweet spots in the market, Giese said.

Future offerings include a class covering the supervisory mindset and another on managing personnel for frontline workers.

The Port of Benton threw its support behind the expanded workforce offerings because it sees it as a key to helping workers keep up with a constantly evolving economy, said Miles Thomas, the port’s director of economic and government affairs.

“Effective career skills result in job fulfillment, recruitment and promotion that the port sees as a clear nexus for community involvement,” he said.

For Visit Tri-Cities, the region’s tourism promotion agency, workforce training is a practical solution to addressing the struggle the hospitality industry faces to find and retain qualified candidates.

“The courses offered under this program will help strengthen the industry and the visitor experience,” said Kim Shugart, senior vice president at Visit Tri-Cities.

Go to tricities.wsu.edu/continuing-education.

To participate in program development, contact Giese via email at joan.giese@wsu.edu.

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