On this week’s episode of Brandstorm, we discuss taking business professionals to the next level. Nathan Bares describes the Executive Programs offered at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) and its goal of making high potential managers within the business community better at what they do.


About Nathan Bares

Nathan is manager of Executive Programs at the UWM Sheldon B. Lubar School of Business. Prior to joining the University, he served as the workforce development manager at Easter Seals Southeast Wisconsin.

About UWM Sheldon B. Lubar School of Business

The Lubar School of Business has been continuously accredited by AACSB International for close to 45 years. Only 5% of business schools worldwide have earned AACSB Accreditation, which serves as the “gold standard” of business program accreditation.

UWM Executive Programs

The Lubar School of Business Executive Program is neither continuing education nor an executive MBA. It is a partnership with the business community to help business professionals become better at what they do in their current occupation, so that they can transition from a manager to a director to a vice president.

Currently, UWM has two executive programs. Started 17 years ago by the current UWM Chancellor, Mark Mone, the Strategic Leadership Series (SLS) is a leadership development partnership between Lubar Executive Education and some of the region’s most respected companies. The eight-day program spans six months, focusing on developing the leadership skills of these rising managers and exposing them to a rich learning environment with leaders from other businesses and industries.

UWM also has a customized executive program that works directly with an organization to develop a curriculum that identifies the core competencies needed to help the company grow, retain more employees, become more productive, or put a succession plan in place. According to Nathan, within family-run companies that have been in business for decades and have extensive industrial experience, about 24 percent of Milwaukee’s workforce population will retire in the next five to 10 years. Hiring to replace and retain that knowledge will be difficult without a succession plan in place.

The Cost of Customized Executive Programs

UWM invests a lot time and money upfront to develop a customized program for an organization. A partnership is required for UWM to become intimately involved with the business and understand its expectations. The curriculum is not as much about teaching skills in sales, marketing, production, supply chain management, etc., but in improving soft skills like understanding leadership versus management, negotiating, networking and conducting successful presentations. While UWM creates a contract with a company, it does not charge for the program until its completion. Contracts are signed only after both parties agree on the curriculum, how many courses, the length of the program, etc. Prices are not determined on a per-head basis, and having more employees in the program actually brings the cost down. A curriculum with 30 to 35 people, for example, would cost less than participating in the SLS.

Measuring Outcomes

While measuring those soft skills referred to previously is more difficult, UWM has developed simulations that make it possible for individuals to practice what they are taught. Expectations are set as to how employees will get better, how they can implement what they learn and how behavior can be changed to make the program worthwhile.

The SLS is easier to measure. Executives work with cohorts, but set personal goals that they strive to meet.

Jobs Training for the Future

With unemployment so low and the economy booming, there is a skills gap in many communities, including Milwaukee. Corporations like Foxconn, Uline, Amazon and Generac are bringing in thousands of new jobs. UWM wants to be a partner in developing talent and is working with companies now to determine what skills are needed and at what level. Is more training needed at the university, technical school, high school and even junior high levels to meet the demands of businesses? For Foxconn, UWM is already working on an internship program that will send five individuals over to its headquarters in China for a year to learn and understand Foxconn’s business and culture.

Parting Advice

Borrowing the words from an executive who attended UWM’s SLS program, Nathan says business professionals who take part in the UWM Executive Programs need to be selfish with their time. Only 50 percent of their education comes from the facilitator standing in front of the room. The other 50 percent comes from interactions the individual has with their co-workers.


Email: njbares@uwm.edu

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/nathan-bares/