CORVALLIS - Oregon business and industry, large or small, can now turn to an expanding "workforce development" program at Oregon State University to obtain custom-tailored employee training in virtually any area.

The renewed emphasis on this program is an effort to provide Oregon businesses the educational support they need, when and where they need it.

"The key to this initiative is that we can customize employee training to the specific needs of a business and give them exactly what they want," said Kati Hays. "It can be oriented to front line employees or the managerial level, right up to CEOs. Courses can be held at OSU or at the business site, during the day or during evenings and weekends. Whatever the employer needs."

Hays recently joined OSU's Office of Continuing Higher Education as coordinator of marketing and outreach services to expand programs such as this, which have been offered on a more limited basis in the past.

OSU, Hays said, has a vast faculty base, strong academic departments and expertise in many fields that can be used to improve the quality of employee training programs. It can also bring in outside experts as needed.

For instance, a recent short course developed for managers at Good Samaritan Hospital in Corvallis included not just obvious topics - such as a professor of accounting to discuss financial management - but also an educator from the OSU Department of Philosophy to explore ethical decision making.

"Employee training is done by virtually every business on some level," Hays said. "But now more and more businesses are finding that with the complexity of modern jobs and variety of skills needed, it makes more sense to turn to a university like OSU with its wider range of resources."

The programs that can be set up, she said, range from a one-day, one-time seminar to more ambitious educational offerings on a regular basis and offered for academic credit.

PriceCostco, a retailing firm, is now sending its managers from Eugene and Salem one day a week to a "Leadership Development Training" program at OSU. In five sessions, their warehouse managers and buying staff learn new managerial skills, theories of employee motivation, improved communication, how to deal with conflict and stress, and other topics.

People who recently took the course cited it for giving them new insights into their managing techniques, understanding employee personalities, and improving personal interaction skills.

"By learning more about employee personality traits I can better motivate in a positive direction," one PriceCostco manager said. "Being able to accomplish this will not only trickle down through the management chain, but also set an example for others to follow."

OSU is planning to expand this program to serve a wider variety of Oregon businesses, Hays said - plans are now being developed, for instance, to help provide limited foreign language training to telephone operators for U S WEST, so they can better assist Spanish-speaking customers.

Fees for the educational services are negotiated separately with each client, Hays said, based on their needs and the extent of the program. More information can be obtained by calling the Office of Continuing Higher Education, telephone 541-737-2569.

"We're trying to be responsive to community needs and the problems facing working adults," Hays said. "We think the real value of our programs, aside from the quality of educators we can draw upon, is that they can serve business when, how and where they need it. We're flexible, and we hope more Oregon businesses will learn to take advantage of that."

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Kati Hays, 541-737-2569