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Initiative Media Establishing Corporate University

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Staffers at Initiative Media North America are sharpening their No. 2 pencils as the agency launches a corporate university to better train them.

Initiative is creating three classes—Media 101, 201 and 301—to improve and update the skills of its estimated 1,300 employees nationwide. Classes start in March.

"We're doing this for employees who join our organization because their skills are outdated two years out of college," said Donna Millenson, the agency's newly appointed svp/director of learning. "There are a few agencies that have started doing this, but I think we're going to be a precedent-setting group."

Corporate universities were first initiated by major firms such as General Electric and Motorola, and have grown in number from about 400 to 1,600 over the past 13 years.

Millenson, also known as the dean of corporate university, will oversee the project from New York. So far, the agency has recruited 20 full-time managers and employees to serve as part-time "professors." Initially, the media behemoth plans to enroll about 500 employees. Eventually, though, all employees will be expected to become certified through IM University.

Millenson, who established a similar program at direct marketing specialist Rapp Collins Worldwide in New York, has the full support of Initiative Worldwide chairman and CEO Lou Schultz, who saw the benefits of the corporate university idea while at Campbell-Ewald in the 1980s.

"I'd like to see our staff be much more upstream with their strategic thinking," Schultz said. "It's not something you can wish and hope [for]. It's something you have to work hard at."

Media 101 is aimed at employees with three years or less experience and focuses on media, media math, buying and negotiating. Media 201 covers strategy and client relationships. And 301, aimed more at senior staff members, focuses on strategizing for the future. IM University will also offer management and leadership classes. Courses will be held on and off site.