Continual Learning

2013 BCBusiness Guide to MBAs in B.C.

Whether it’s a two-day course or several weeks of intensive learning, executive education keeps leaders on top of their game.

It may be tough to re-enter the halls of academia after working in the real world, but no business professionals can afford to revel in the “no more pencils, no more books” mindset. Industries evolve, and job descriptions along with them, demanding new skills, knowledge and, in some cases, diplomas. Luckily, plenty of schools offer accredited programs that cater to demanding schedules while providing the practical knowledge favoured by men and women who’ve long since left the classroom behind. Here’s a highlight reel of education options from B.C. universities for enterprising professionals looking to top-up their credentials.

Sauder School of Business, UBC

The only school in Western Canada currently listed on the Financial Times international executive education rankings, Sauder is also the only school on this side of the country with a facility devoted exclusively to executive education, complete with classrooms, a student support centre and a dedicated production team to service the 2,000 execs who walk through its doors each year.

The average course runs from two to five days, costing around $1,200. In order to earn a professional development certificate, however, students must complete at least six of Sauder’s 120-plus exec ed courses for an investment of about $8,000.

Within its fairly broad open-enrolment catalogue, innovation, entrepreneurship, strategy and sustainability stand out as areas of expertise. Thirteen new courses were introduced in late 2012, geared toward such subjects as product management, project management and social media. Custom programs are also an option.

“What we’re really good at,” advises associate dean Bruce Wiesner, “is best practices and models of implementation. You come and take a two-day course, you know what the latest thinking is, the latest practices from world leaders on this particular topic, and you study good solid models that you can take back to your company.” A typical class, consisting of around 30 students, will be divided equally between lecture, class discussion and group work, the goal being an equal blend of the theoretical and the practical.

Doug Simms, manager of business analysis and reporting at Syncrude Canada Ltd., completed a course on strategy and innovation, as well as the new Meeting the Leadership Challenge program. Like many executive students, he was expecting to benefit as much from interaction with a diverse array of fellow managers as from the curriculum itself.

“The good news is, I actually got both,” Simms says. “It was a very well designed program. We spent our time on the right things and when we moved through certain subjects a little quicker, the instructors were able to adapt and move the pace along. Plus, the quality of the instruction was just fantastic. We had a couple of folks like Darren Dahl, Daniel Skarlicki, Dave McPhillips – those guys are the tops in their own personal areas of training.”

Beedie School of Business, SFU

The executive education branch at SFU’s Beedie School of Business focuses on working with companies to build custom programs that address organizational needs. Its stated areas of expertise include sustainability, responsible practices, innovation and financing.

Course length runs from two to five days, up to recurring multi-year programs, offering a variety of certificates and graduate diplomas. After initial start-up costs, custom programs tend to cost around $500 to $600 a day, depending on what the program itself will entail.

“They always involve lots of application,” explains executive director Kristina Henriksson. “Sometimes we leverage a little bit of our existing curriculum, but it can also contain quite a few very specialized courses. A lot of the time, the real customization work happens in the classrooms and in the conversations that take place, dealing with particular projects and challenges the organization is facing.”

Students can also choose between three open enrolment options: a leadership development program engineered with the CIO Association of Canada, a director’s education program done with Rotman School of Management, and a physician’s leadership course. Pricing tends to be around $2,000 to $4,000 for several months of online and limited in-class sessions.

Barbara Davey, an IT manager for the city of Surrey, completed the CIOCAN leadership program in 2011, sensing her bosses were looking for a “business partner at the table” rather than just a technology expert.

“The pace was really quick and focused. It was a group of about 20 people, there would be a bit of a theory lecture at the beginning, a lot of discussion, a practical exercise, some homework. There was a different instructor every week, which kept things fresh and moving, and a lot of classroom participation. I learned as much from the other folks in the classroom as I learned from the instructor.”

Centre for Applied Leadership and Management,
Royal Roads University

Serving around 700 students a year, Royal Roads University’s Centre for Applied Leadership and Management offers, in addition to custom work, up to 25 open-enrolment courses with seven graduate-level diplomas awarded for subjects including management, leadership and strategic development.

Individual open-enrolment courses tend to take three to five days to complete, while a graduate diploma can be achieved over the course of six months. Programs range from $750 to $4,200 for non-credit executive education courses and programs. Graduate Certificate (for credit) programs range from $5,500 to $9,000.

“We want to ensure our students go back into the workforce having tried a few things,” offers program director Zoe MacLeod. “It’s better to fail here than out there, so let’s try a few things, let’s take some risks.”

One example can be seen in the school’s popular executive coaching program, the final exam for which involves coaching a local businessperson unaffiliated with the course on how to identify and achieve their organizational goals in front of a panel of faculty members and alumni.

In addition to executive coaching, the most in-demand options in the centre’s catalogue include “higher-level strategy” offerings such as Leadership in Management and Strategic Human Resources. Recently, the centre added a program on talent development, responding to an increasing number of companies eager to safeguard corporate knowledge in the midst of the mass exodus of baby boomers from the workplace.

Russell Hunter, national director of the Human Performance Institute, is a graduate of Royal Roads’ eight-month executive coaching program. “I really appreciated the way that Royal Roads was able to bring in a lot of different models and theories around systems dynamics,” he says. “There was some theory, but a lot of it was really about applying the concepts in the context of coaching. So we’d have a lot of different hands-on exercises, as well as the online learning between residencies. What surprised me was the sense of play; I was not expecting it to be such an enjoyable environment for learning.”