Customized TrainingOn-Site Job Training Furthers Bethel’s Reach

Employers face the challenge of developing leadership and communication skills in their employees. And while many would rate it as a high priority, with the day-to-day demands of managing an organization, it can be difficult to implement formal employee training. That’s where Bethel College’s center for customized training fits in.

The center, an initiative made possible by 2013 Lilly Grant funding, “was designed to leverage the strengths of the college to provide services beyond the traditional classroom in the areas of workforce readiness, training and employee development, and continuing education,” says Director of Customized Training James Lovaas.

The center’s first community partnership: The Kroc Center in South Bend.

“We have been actively working with the leaders at the Kroc Center (as many as 26 at a time),” says Lovaas.
Each week, Lovaas meets with Kroc Center managers to provide leadership training.

James Lovaas, director of customized training at Bethel (center, standing), provides on-site management training for leaders at the Kroc Center in South Bend.

James Lovaas, director of customized training at Bethel (center, standing), provides on-site management training for leaders at the Kroc Center in South Bend.

“We’re taking this really seriously,” says Scott Holmlund, human resource manager/volunteer coordinator for the Kroc Center. “We’re developing all of our managers and leaders to make a stronger organization.”

Holmlund, along with Kroc Center Membership Services Director Sharon Dutkowski, meet with Lovaas and bring him issues that can be improved upon among their management team. Lovaas then designs a curriculum that meets the needs of their organization.

Partnering with Bethel’s center for customized training has strengthened the Kroc Center as an organization; it’s provided professional development for Kroc Center employees; and it’s encouraged some staff to further their education by taking classes and going back to school, says Holmlund.

According to Lovaas, improving the strength of an organization is a reason many employers are excited to work with the center. “Companies are looking for more opportunities to provide professional development because it supports employee retention. People feel valued when their employer invests time and energy into training them — it builds organizational commitment,” says Lovaas.

Next month, the center for customized training will begin working with a major employer in Kosciusko County. And they are currently developing proposals for two major employers in Elkhart County, as well as several local companies.

“So far, we have had a great reception in the community,” says Lovaas. “Business leaders and community leaders have both been encouraging in our work to serve the community and expand the influence of Bethel College.”

On campus, they have already facilitated the Summer Institute for Teachers, with 79 in attendance, and certified community health worker training, which will be ongoing. This fall, the center will partner with the adult and graduate studies office of career services to support their work in preparing students for the workforce. They are also exploring partnership opportunities with local churches and organizations off campus, and recently launched a series of webinars called the Lifelong Learning Series in an effort to provide free continuing education and development to the Bethel community.

The center for customized training truly furthers Bethel’s mission of building lives of commitment for leadership in the community, the church and the world.

“It expands Bethel’s presence into the community in ways previously not available,” says Lovaas. “We are now able to invest into the lives of the members of our community through training programs in their workplace.”

For more information and to discuss potential partnerships, contact Lovaas at or 574.807.7056.