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Louisiana-based Grainger employee uses online learning to earn certificates remotely

by Public Relations and Marketing | Published Jul 27, 2021

Over the last year, online classes have seemed like the only alternative with in-person classes on hold, but sometimes going online can be the best way for someone to get the education they need. At College of Lake County (CLC), numerous online courses are still available for those who are unable to or choose not to go the route of traditional classroom learning.

Jessica Russell is an employee for Grainger, a broad line business-to-business distributor. She is based in Louisiana, but was able to take classes at CLC to help further her career. She was one of 24 in a Grainger cohort chosen by supervisors to pursue an Introduction to Supply Chain Management (SCM) Certificate and chose to continue her studies, completing the Advanced SCM Certificate from CLC using Grainger tuition reimbursement.

Jessica RussellWhile taking classes, Russell, like many other students, continued working full-time. In Fall 2020, she even doubled-up on SCM courses, taking two advanced certificate classes each eight weeks.

Being a full-time student on top of working full time is a challenge for anyone, but Russell was thankful CLC made it easier.

“CLC is flexible and makes it very easy to go to class as a full-time worker,” Russell said. “It wasn’t an overwhelming course load. Everything I needed was available to me online when I needed it.”

After completing the four advanced SCM courses, the students complete a capstone course. Since many students who take the advanced SCM courses are already employed in the field, they often complete a capstone project with their employer, like Russell did.

Pam Janson, CLC SCM Department Chair, said the capstone project involves employees going “above and beyond” their normal work.

For her project, Russell remotely managed an on-site inventory trailer for a customer where employees completing a major factory maintenance shutdown could scan and grab different equipment such as safety equipment, gauges and janitorial equipment.

Russell’s tenacity to complete her coursework and capstone project as quickly as she did was again apparent as she addressed the different issues she was up against during her capstone.

A crisis at a customer’s plant and a highly unusual snowstorm in Louisiana both occurred around the same time in February, causing delays with the planned maintenance. Also, the weather conditions meant freight trucks couldn’t run for nearly two weeks and the work she could do was limited.

Despite an outcome that wasn’t exactly as she planned, Russell still finished her capstone project in March, completing her final Advanced SCM Certificate course.

“It’s a great perseverance story to me,” Janson said. “It took a lot of grit and motivation to get the work done in that amount of time.”

Since finishing her certificates, Russell has already seen gains in her career.

“I’ve been able to meet with the VP of global operations and do some more job shadowing in different areas,” she said. “The SCM certificates will definitely help me move up.”

About College of Lake County

College of Lake County is a comprehensive community college committed to equitable high-quality education, cultural enrichment and partnerships to advance the diverse communities it serves in northeastern Illinois. Offered at three campuses in Grayslake, Vernon Hills and Waukegan or online, college classes are affordable and accessible to help each student achieve academic, career and personal goals. More than 70,000 students graduated with degrees and certificates since the college opened in 1969. College of Lake County is the only higher-education institution ranked among the top 15 best places to work in Illinois by Forbes and is a national leader in many areas, including sustainability and conservation.