A strong business community is one that is always looking to grow and invest, whether it be a new project, expansion or workforce development. Here, Justin Griffith, Ed.D., chief executive officer of the Regional Learning Alliance (RLA) in Cranberry Township, shares how the RLA is growing its campus and its program offerings, including workforce credentials and certificates.
Tell us about the history of the RLA and how it came to be.
Designed in early 2002, under the leadership of Slippery Rock University in conjunction with education, business and economic leaders in Western Pennsylvania, RLA was envisioned as the most innovative educational and workforce development concept in the nation, operating out of a single comprehensive facility. The RLA was formed as a 501(c)3 nonprofit and designed to serve as a campus for an alliance of nine educational institutions that would join forces under one roof to create programs designed to meet the needs of the workforce. By collaborating rather than competing for students, educational providers would offer services and facilities that would be difficult to offer individually. We also were built as a full-service, technology-based conference and training center. The mission was designed to build a better workforce and add economic vitality to the region.
Describe the RLA today and what makes it unique to the Pittsburgh region.
The RLA concept was built to adapt to the needs of the workforce. We are an ever-changing, evolving organization. In everything we do, we design the highest quality education that is constantly changing and adapting to the needs of both society and the workforce. For example, the needs for Nurses and Counselors has been an upward-moving trend that Carlow University, Geneva College and Waynesburg University all responded to with accredited degree programs at our campus in these fields of study. There also is significant value in having an MBA, specifically for individuals that have backgrounds in scientific or technology fields and lack business expertise. Penn State, Slippery Rock University, Geneva College and Waynesburg University all offer differing MBA programs designed specifically for the RLA campus and our student population. We deliver four options because they each are designed differently from one another.
What makes us unique is that we are experts in the learning environment. As an educational psychologist myself, I ensure that continuous research goes into how and why we do things in our space to ensure that it is the most optimal for learning. It is a pivotal role to serve the needs of the workforce by offering the very best atmosphere to hold professional development and training.
One of the main focuses of the RLA is workforce development. Tell us about the programs you have.
Our workforce training programs are both degree and non-degree. Non-degree offerings include credits, certifications and continuing education for specific trades. For example, PSU New Kensington offers Professional Engineering Review courses and others entities, such as PICPA and Kaplan, offer more than 150 courses per year in Engineering, Accounting and Finance.
In 2018, we created our Workforce Growth Center, located on the 2nd floor of our building. This center is a segment of our support for new and/or growing entities that are working to create and build jobs. We are proud of the enterprises that have already outgrown the space we offer them. We offer a center and services conducive to their growth potential. We are thrilled that this effort works to fulfill our mission to enhance the economic vitality of the region.
What is something others may not know about the RLA?
Many are not aware that our model includes early learning and arts education through two Educational Partners, HeartPrints Center for Early Education and Keystone State Music Theater Academy (KSMT), both 501(c)3 nonprofit entities. Early learning encompasses STEAM education (the “A” is for the arts) and performing arts education for youth to adults in voice, dance and musical theater. This part of our campus was incorporated in 2013 and has grown significantly each year. These entities illustrate the value we place on lifelong learning.
What are some exciting plans for the RLA in 2019?
There is much excitement for 2019 because we are cultivating what will be many more training courses and programs. We are partnering with 10 entities that offer programs having open enrollment. We are also working with SRU and PSU to create three new degree programs, which will include a Master of Accounting and Master of Healthcare Administration. These programs will be hybrid learning and will allow flexibility, designed specifically for the working professional.
For more information, visit www.therla.org.