Educating HR professionals
by Kathie Stamps, BusinessLexington
What was once called the personnel department, dealing with people and paperwork, is now known as human resources, a term coined by Leonard Nadler in his 1970 book “Developing Human Resources.” The field of human resources, or HR, has evolved to include working in an operational capacity and implementing a company’s strategies. Aside from on-the-job training and years of general workplace experience, where do professionals learn HR skills? Area universities are providing educational opportunities.
Since the late 1990s, the Executive Education Center at the University of Kentucky’s Gatton College of Business and Economics has offered an HR management certification. The continuing education credit program has helped more than 400 people at the University of Kentucky prepare for the exam to become certified as a professional in human resources (PHR) or a senior professional in human resources (SPHR). Those exams are administered by the HR Certification Institute, based outside of Washington, D.C.
Within the College of Business and Technology at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU), the bachelor’s degree in business administration has an option in human resource management. Created by Mike Roberson, Ph.D., the program began in 1994. In the early years, EKU had a hard time getting students placed in anything other than entry-level positions, because HR positions were traditionally staffed by senior members of corporations.
“A lot of organizations didn’t think they needed to hire people with specialized training in human resources,” Roberson said. “That has changed. We see our alumni proudly serving in all kinds of organizations throughout the Bluegrass and beyond.”
In addition to an introductory HR management course, students take four advanced courses in labor relations, compensation management, employee recruitment and selection, and human resource development.
“If you’re looking for three cheap hours in advanced management, you’ve come to the wrong class,” Allen Engle, Ph.D., tells his students. “It is labor-intensive work.”
Roberson added, “They leave here and know they’ve been through one of the most rigorous programs they can imagine.”
Engle and Roberson, professors of management, are the primary faculty members in the HR program. Of the 111 graduates in the HR option’s history, 34 have graduated in the last four years. Many of the 407 management majors in the same time period took advanced HR courses.
“This is an indication of where we are today and what we expect the next few years to be like,” Roberson said.
The EKU professors combine theory and application in each course. They update content on a regular basis.
“We constantly ask ourselves, ‘What is relevant for today’s students?’” Roberson said.
For many years, a human resources manager was “a smart person who got along well with others,” according to Roberson. As the field grew in complexity, so did the need for formal training.
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