The Institute of Technology and Business Development (ITBD) at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) supports Connecticut businesses and business-related organizations by providing professional development training, conferencing services and business incubation.
IDH: What type of mentoring, workshops and support services does the ITBD provide?
MULLINS: The ITBD is a self-supporting entity. It fundamentally provides three services: workforce development training, business incubation and conferencing. Our focus is on helping companies improve productivity and operational performance.
IDH: How long has the ITBD been providing these services?
MULLINS: We’ve been doing this since 1985. We moved into the downtown campus in 1993. About two years ago, Continuing Education evolved on campus and Christa Sterling was hired. We’ve been co-located in New Britain since then.
IDH: Christa, tell us about Continuing Education services at CCSU.
STERLING: Continuing Education offers a wide variety of non-credit classes, programs and professional development certificates designed to help professionals advance their careers and improve their knowledge. We offer flexible online, hybrid, evening and weekend classes with coaching options to help you balance your educational needs and the many completing demands of life.
MULLINS: We are part of the University’s Institutional Advancement Department and outreach center offering non-credit programs in professional development and lifelong learning. We have developed a new branding (CCS4U) to cover both of us in the roles we play: the lifelong learning piece, the economic development and the professional workforce development. One may think that we do the same kind of thing when it comes to professional development, but we’re really looking at two different populations.
IDH: How so?
MULLINS: I’m focused on the business professional who needs to improve their professional productivity or their company wants to improve its productivity. They send people to us for Lean Six Sigma, International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and leadership type of training. We also go on site to provide training.
We’re really not focused on “Bob wants to improve his resume.” However, Bob may decide that he wants to improve his skills and doesn’t want to pursue a Master’s degree. He may decide that he wants to take a non-credit professional development course in Lean Six Sigma leadership. We do help with that at the ITBD.
IDH: How are the ITBD and Continuing Education collaborating?
MULLINS: The reason we did the joint CCSU campaign was to bring our two constituencies together to better understand the resources in the downtown campus when it comes to organizational, personal and professional development.
My department has also been involved in youth programs. We started the First Capital Work Force Summer Youth Employment Program with the then-mayor of New Britain, Timothy Stewart in 2004. That evolved for a number of years and now we have another entity here with the campus called TRiO, which has about 500 kids involved in a federally funded middle school and high school program.
This is not to be confused with the activities that Christa and I are doing but it’s collaborative in the sense that we tap a lot of the talent in the area to support the students and begin to get them focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.
When it comes to youth, we are really focused on STEM initiatives. With adults it’s personal and professional development. When it comes to companies, the focus is productivity and process improvement.
IDH: Tell us about the Innovation and Education Center the ITBD launched in September.
MULLINS: The Innovation and Education is in partnership with the CCSU Elihu Burritt Library. In September we kicked off our Innovation and Education Center program with high school students and our students from campus forming mentor/mentee relationships.
We are introducing college students to entrepreneurial activity. They’re going to be working on projects in three areas: the first is open-source solutions software; the second is 3-D printing and product development, focusing on how you can bring a concept idea from abstract to physical; and the third area is the aspect of entrepreneurialism and how to run a business. This will also be integrated with learning to use a Raspberry Pi, which is a small computer that can be used to learn programming. We’re working with TRiO and the library on those initiatives.
IDH: What other roles does the library play at the ITBD?
MULLINS: The library is a community central collaborative initiative. It has two 3-D printers and a 3-D scanner. So we are actively engaged in helping build student-to-student relationships with the CCSU students at the high schools to work on these STEM-related projects.
In addition, the librarians are going to work with students to do research on patent searches to ensure they’re doing something new and not copying a concept that’s already out there.
IDH: Let’s talk about the incubator program. What types of businesses can apply?
MULLINS: It’s usually individuals who have an entrepreneurial desire, need or interest. There have been close to 100 incubator companies here to date. We have had all levels of success. We’ve had mergers and we’ve had acquisitions. We’ve had a company leave and build other facilities. We’ve had student incubators. One fellow supposedly sold his business. He was a graduate about two years ago and he sold his business in January for between $700,000and $800,000. It was a dot com business—he was an economics major. We have women-owned and minority-owned businesses as well in the incubator program. We have a lifecycle program that is very unique.
IDH: So the program isn’t just for students and faculty?
MULLINS: It is not. We’ve had all types of participants. For example, students from campus who have participated in the business plan competition and won—we have three of those students here.
The ITBD has had seven incubators receive Connecticut business incubator network grants for between $30,000 and $50,000. One of the most recent ones was a lighting company doing LED lighting. Another company has done a transportation app for truckers.
We’ve also had faculty incubators. In fact, we have one that’s faculty- and student-related, it’s called CCSU (Collaboration for Assistive Resources and Equipment and Services) C.A.R.E.S. They’re running a Go Baby Go initiative that adapts toy ride-on cars for toddlers with mobility challenges.
IDH: So there is a lot of technology and innovation going on.
STERLING: Yes. We did a number of classes this summer that were all technical oriented. There was one in particular it was an all-girls robotics program called Tech-It Out. There were a series of courses available from elementary, middle and high school. We had about 175 kids. We’re working on some really great ideas for next summer.
MULLINS: Things have changed since I was a kid going to summer camp at the campus here. Now students come to campus for technology-related activities to build their skills to motivate them. We get them thinking about STEM-related careers.
We’ve driven that focus of innovation at a much younger level and kids actually want to come for a week-long session. These are activities that are meaningful. It builds those skill sets that one day kids may find themselves using in a job.
The earlier we engage this future work force on the process of innovation the more successful and competitive we are going to be globally. This is the kind of opportunity that a student, a young person, a professional would have by engaging us here at the downtown campus.
There truly are so many good things going on here.