The current edition of Community College Journal features an article on mutually beneficial partnerships between community colleges and businesses. "Working With Industry," by Ellen Ullman, relates how building these partnerships within communities can aid community colleges not only with funding, but also the development and implementation of programs of study that result in students completing and obtaining credentials with labor market value.
In the article, Peggy Walton, Senior Director of Workforce Readiness at Corporate Voices for Working Families, shared key foundational steps for establishing these partnerships in a way that benefits businesses. These steps include the need to research regional economic imperatives, set clear goals between partners, and have a system in place to measure those goals. These essential elements to building successful business-community college partnerships in addition to others are described in more detail in Corporate Voices' publication, Business and Community College Partnerships: A Blueprint- as highlighted in the article.
Businesses and community colleges each have strengths to contribute to these partnerships which Corporate Voices identifies as Learn and Earn models. Business partners can provide their real-time needs to academia and validate learning outcomes, often connected to industry-recognized credentials. This leads to improved job placement rates and greater visibility for the program. Community colleges, typically, are deeply connected to the regional economy and have the flexibility needed to expand curricula and programs as the needs of the region and its employers develop.
Through a Learn and Earn partnership, each member is able to meet several goals. Businesses are able to create a talent pipeline through which current and future employees receive 21st century workplace education and training. This leads to improved retention rates among employees, improved skill and education levels, and a boost in productivity. Community colleges receive validated curriculum, increased revenue, and increased ability to meet their student completion goals.
Corporate Voices is documenting these partnerships in a new report, to be released later this month, entitled A Talent Development Solution: Exploring Business Drivers and Returns in Learn and Earn Partnership. The report will describe Learn and Earn models as they help to bridge the skills gap for employers while encouraging and/or supporting current and future employees' attainment of postsecondary credentials. Thus far Corporate Voices has documented over twenty such partnerships in our micro-case study series.
As Ms. Ullman succinctly states in her article, “The decision to work with industry seems like a no-brainer. Local businesses and corporations have a vested interest in seeing students succeed. And community colleges have a reputation for tailoring curricula to local needs.” Corporate Voices sees the reasons to work with community colleges as equally compelling and encourages best practice companies to become Learn and Earn leaders.