Publications & Products
Volume 1, Issue 8

Community College and Business Partnerships Take Root

During last month's State of the Union address, President Barack Obama spoke of a partnership between Siemens AG and Central Piedmont Community College in North Carolina that helped an out-of-work mechanic enroll in training and earn a high-paying job at the company. The president applauded the effort and called on more two-year institutions and private businesses around the country to engage in similar job-creating partnerships.

Even before the president's speech last month, however, similar local partnerships between business and education had already taken root in communities around the country. Lisa Heise, controller of the Great Basin College Foundation in Elko, Nev., says her institution has extensive partnerships with gold mining companies in the surrounding region.

The Barrick Gold Corporation and the Newmont Mining Corporation—two of the largest gold mining companies in the world—and a few related businesses have teamed up with the college to form the Maintenance Training Cooperative. The companies interview and select applicants for an intensive one-year program in one of several high-demand areas—such as welding, mill maintenance, diesel mechanics, electrical and instrumentation programs. Successful candidates are given scholarships that pay most of their tuition and related costs. These students are also offered jobs in the mines two or three days a week when they are not in class.

"We are already in discussions to significantly expand the capacity of this program due to industry demands," Heise says. "The price of gold is over $1,700 today."

Kimberly A. Russell, vice president of advancement and external affairs at Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Texas, says her institution has a successful partnership with Luminant, a local electric utility.

Luminant's corporate training academy for power plant employees is housed at one of the college's branch campuses. The utility company provided funds to equip and furnish the training facility. It also invests more than $175,000 a year for full scholarships to students who are enrolled in the Luminant Academy. Students earn an associate degree from the college in power plant technology, receive internships to work in Luminant mining facilities, and many become full-time employees at the company after graduation.

"Our partnership with Luminant has paved the way for additional local companies to look at us to be their training institution," Russell says. "Now that President Obama has put community colleges on the forefront for workforce development and training, I believe it'll help us work with more national and international types of companies. It's all about accountability and job training and producing people with skills who can be gainfully employed."

Jobs in manufacturing aren't the only ones being created by these partnerships. Lenore L. Friend, community affairs specialist at Finger Lakes Community College in Canandaigua, New York, says her institution has consulted with nearby wineries to develop the only two-year viticulture and wine technology program in the northeastern United States. She adds that with wineries growing exponentially in New York, there is an increasing demand for vineyard managers, winemakers, tasting room managers and other viticulture professionals.

"There's greater interest in these partnerships because of the nature of the economy and because we're moving toward a need for more skilled workers," Friend says. "Most people won't be able to make it on a high school diploma anymore. The word is getting out, and I think President Obama's recent comments certainly help. I'm finding students are more attracted to these programs because they're more assured of a job on the other side. Employers only create these [partnership] programs because they want to hire people who they're confident will have the right skills."

Such partnerships may even lead to financial contributions from appreciative businesses. Friend notes that one of her institution's largest gifts in recent years was from Constellation Brands—one of the world's largest wine companies, which is based in a nearby town.

Charles Young, director of Northeast State Community College's teaching site in Elizabethton, Tenn., recently wrote his doctoral dissertation on the history and efficacy of public-private partnerships between businesses and community colleges, including an overview of best practices for their creation and upkeep.

Young says there are several best practices both parties must keep in mind for workforce development projects to produce effective, long-lasting and mutually-beneficial outcomes.

"The decision-makers from both the public and private organizations have to communicate honestly and frequently so that everyone knows what to expect from each other," he says. "Business and education are two different worlds. Businesses are mobile and fast-acting while education is often slow-moving and conservative. Only clear, constant communication that defines reasonable expectations, responsibilities and clear goals will help these partnerships navigate these differences."

Young adds that it is important to have a conditional exit strategy that allows for either partner to bow out once the partnership is no longer relevant or has completed its training goals.

President Obama's mention of these partnerships "opens up opportunities," Young says. "But it won't necessarily compel anyone to do anything. It's just a small bump in that it raises their profile. We just have to be open with business that these partnerships don't often save money up front. Typically, the benefits of these partnerships show up later in terms of increased productivity and having a better workforce. Community colleges still have to reach out and say to [business], ‘This is something we can do for you.'"

This article is from the February 2012 issue of the Community College Advancement News.


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Fundraising Strategies for Community Colleges: The Definitive Guide for Emerging Institutions

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This comprehensive guide, written expressly for community colleges, offers practical advice and concrete steps on how to build a strong advancement program that encompasses annual funds, grants, major gifts and planned giving.




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April 18 - 20, 2012
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The theme for this conference is "The Basics, the Best, the Next" as CASE and its foundation members reflect on two decades of helping to strengthen the IRF field and look ahead to what foundations and foundation leaders can expect in the future. The conference is designed primarily for executives at foundations affiliated with four-year public institutions and community colleges.

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