Laura Stoecker/<br />Brian Brooke of Lake in the Hills is working on his Executive MBA from Notre Dame. He is in the second of three semesters and will graduate in May 2012.
Laura Stoecker/
Brian Brooke of Lake in the Hills is working on his Executive MBA from Notre Dame. He is in the second of three semesters and will graduate in May 2012.
After Brian Brooke of Lake in the Hills comes home from work, eats dinner and plays with his two sons, he studies toward his masters in business administration degree with an accelerated program at Notre Dame University.
His 17-month program is expected to be completed by May 2012. So he attends classes in downtown Chicago, near one of his offices. But he is required to travel to the South Bend, Ind., campus for about four weeks.
At 32, Brooke decided on juggling the MBA with a full-time job and family, hoping the advanced degree would help gain future promotions in a competitive landscape. He knows that too well. He’s area managing director at Jackson Wabash, a staffing firm for accountants and other financial professionals with offices in Chicago, Oak Brook and Schaumburg.
Brooke is among a growing legion of students returning to executive education, aiming to expand their skills and knowledge to get a better job or advance in their current career. About 65 percent of universities participating in a survey said they predict an increase in participation in their MBA and other advanced training programs. Also 78 percent forecast an increase in such programs during 2011, according to the International University Consortium for Executive Education, a consortium of 97 business schools worldwide, including Northwestern University, University of Chicago, Notre Dame, Harvard and Stanford.
“As the survey trends indicate, the executive education industry is in positive transition as industries rebound and their leaders return for the educational and development opportunities provided by university-based executive education,” Mike Malefakis, associate  dean for executive education at Columbia University and consortium co-chair, said in a statement.
While those well-known universities offer MBA and other training programs for executives, so do an assortment of others, including regional universities, for-profit schools and organizations with programs for both classroom, online or a hybrid of both.
Aurora University in Aurora has seen an uptick in attendance in classrooms and online programs in its business school, and more employers are helping to pay the tab, said David Diehl, interim director of the MBA program and assistant professor of accounting.
“Because of the economy, we’ve become more efficient on how we run businesses and companies want to have their workers become more efficient as well,” Diehl said.
Diehl has been seeing roughly 52 percent women and the rest men sign up for MBA classes. The MBA program runs roughly 1 year to 3 years, depending on course load, and costs about $22,500.
He’s also finding many MBA candidates also are studying concurrently for their certification in their chosen field, hoping to kill two birds with one stone.
“People would like an environment where they can achieve their learning with an advanced degree and the recognition that goes with program certifications,” he said. “Both are valuable, but the degree is the foundation.”
At North Park University in Chicago, administrators have found enrollment returning to pre-recession levels. And many who were laid off during the recession have returned to earn an MBA to help get a new job, said Wesley E. Lindahl, dean of North Park’s School of Business and Nonprofit Management.
The university also has a focus on nonprofit executive training, that attracts 80 percent women enrollees, while the MBA program attracts 60 percent men, Lindahl said.
Both areas offer online courses, which North Park expects to increase, he said.
“It’s the convenience factor,” Lindahl said. “It’s not for everyone, especially those who want more interaction.”
Besides universities, other organizations offer classroom or online experiences for those seeking to upgrade their executives skills.
American Management Association operates an executive conference center in Chicago and provides more than 140 different training programs in 23 subjects, including general management, supervisory skills, leadership, communications, finance, accounting and project management, said Roger Kelleher, a spokesman for New York-based American Management Association.
Career Education Corp.’s Educational Alliances Center in Schaumburg, as well as American InterContinental University in Hoffman Estates and its Colorado Technical University based in Colorado Springs, offers educational programs, including online classes, that help executives toward advancement, said Teresa Logue, head of the Educational Alliances Center.
The center works with corporations and community colleges to tailor special educational programs and training sessions. While she declined to say the names of the companies they work with, she said they’re all Fortune 500 firms.
Online courses are also increasing, catering to many students who work full-time and have families and other personal obligations, experts said.
“Businesses are realizing they have to be nimble. Things are changing and changing very quickly,” said Maria Coons, executive director of workforce and strategic alliances at Harper College in Palatine.
Harper has seen an increase of about 30 percent in leadership program attendance this year. The college also offers noncredit, continuing education programs aimed at improving executive skills.
In addition, Harper tailors programs and training classes for companies so workers can more easily obtain training, Coons said.
Those in the health care, law and technology fields constantly see changes and they seek to update their skills, Coons said.
“It’s layoff aversion, a way to keep something new on your resume and look more relevant,” she said.