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, I 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.

To read the full Community College Journal article, go to “Working With Industry.”
To view Early Findings of the Learn and Earn report, go to A Talent Development Solution.

At a time when national leaders are looking to America’s more than 1,200 community colleges to help fuel an economic transformation, a new report from our colleagues at the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) spotlights both great opportunities and serious challenges ahead.

Reclaiming the American Dream: Community Colleges and the Nation’s Future details community college “student success rates that are unacceptably low, employment preparation that is inadequately connected to job-market needs, and disconnections in transitions between high schools, community colleges, and baccalaureate institutions.” Considering the national imperative to add 20 million postsecondary educated workers over the next 15 years, these are serious indictments for higher education institutions tasked with preparing a globally competitive workforce and ones to which employers look for the next generation of talent.

Corporate Voices for Working Families commends AACC and its 21st-Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges for recommending a new vision for America’s community colleges.  Our corporate partners share the commitment to “Reclaiming the American Dream”. To be sure, U.S. employers have much at stake in the success of community colleges and the students they are educating for the workforce of tomorrow. Moreover, employers can—indeed, must—be a part of the solution, by helping to ensure that college coursework aligns with the knowledge and skills they require of their new employees, and by helping working students juggle the demands of school and their job.

As part of its “Learn and Earn” micro business case study series, Corporate Voices has documented a range of best practice talent development partnerships between businesses and education providers – frequently community colleges.  These Learn and Earn models help bridge the skills gap for employers, while encouraging and/or supporting current and future employees’ attainment of postsecondary credentials with labor market value – the most significant benchmark for achieving economic sustainability. Learn and Earn partnerships also provide real returns for these leading companies.

For example, AREVA, a global company that provides services, fuel, and engineering support to nuclear plants worldwide, partners withCentralVirginiaCommunity College on an Employee Training Program that produces graduates with an Associate Degree in Nuclear Support Technology.  These highly skilled, high-wage positions make a significant contribution to the centralVirginia regional economy, and supply a high-quality, entry-level talent pipeline to the employer in a fairly rural region.

In another Learn and Earn model, Bright Horizons Family Solutions LLC, the world’s leading provider of employer-sponsored child care, early education, and work/life solutions, created a blended e-training program to help teachers acquire a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential. Through the company’s partnership withNorthamptonCommunity College inPennsylvania, Bright Horizons’ 18,000 employees around the country can enroll in the college’s online associate degree program, and have 9 academic credits honored from the CDA toward an associate degree. For Bright Horizons, the program is a win-win: Not only has it increased the quality of early child care services provided at its centers, but the credential is also viewed as a major contributing factor in reducing the company’s employee turnover rate by more than 50 percent.

Education-and-business partnerships like these create a model for ways in which community colleges can meet student success targets in connection with their regional labor markets.  Corporate Voices’ publication, Business and Community College Partnerships: A Blueprint, is a tool that helps guide the formation of these partnerships.  It is available at no charge on our website.

Corporate Voices agrees with AACC President and CEO, Walter Bumphus, who acknowledges that individual colleges have demonstrated success, but said, “We haven’t done a [great] job of replicating these practices across the country.”  Corporate Voices and its employer partners stand ready to join community colleges to replicate best practices like Learn and Earn, and support this initiative to “Reclaim the American Dream.”

Health Careers CollaborativeFor more than a decade, Corporate Voices has provided leading best-practice employers a forum to improve the lives of working families, while strengthening our nation’s economy.  Many employers accomplish this by supporting the educational attainment of current and future employees.  In order to ensure that individuals have the skills to succeed in the workplace and are on education and career pathways to earning family sustaining wages, employers often partner with community colleges in Learn and Earn models of talent development.

Each week, in an effort to highlight these best practice models, Corporate Voices will spotlight a distinct Learn and Earn partnership between a business and community college. This week, we are pleased to highlight the Health Careers Collaborative of Greater Cincinnati.

The Health Careers Collaborative (HCC) of Greater Cincinnati is a business-led consortium providing area hospitals with skilled, credentialed, loyal and diverse workers, while providing entry-level workers with educational opportunities tied to career mobility.  At the consortium’s foundation is a partnership between Cincinnati State Technical and Community College and local healthcare employers, including UC Health, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and TriHealth. HCC successfully created a career pathway with multiple entrance and exit points for incumbent, low-skilled and entry-level hospital workers to advance. The pathway also allows for unemployed and disadvantaged individuals to complete education and training programs that will position them to fill vacancies at the entry-level as incumbent workers advance.

To date, 3,000 credentials have been earned by participants, and one employer calculated an 11.9% return on investment for its participation in the collaborative.  The key to this successful model, according to the employers, is that it is business-led and that the community college and community organizations are willing and trustworthy partners.

On Wednesday, February 22, U.S. Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis and Dr. Jill Biden visited HCC as part of a three-day “Community College to Career” bus tour to highlight innovative industry initiatives that are helping train students with the skills they need to meet area workforce needs. The bus tour and visit to HCC follow President Obama’s recent announcement of an $8 billion Community College to Career Fund, co-administered by the Department of Labor and Department of Education,which will help forge new partnerships between community colleges and businesses to train two million workers with skills that will lead directly to jobs.

For more information on HCC, please read the Learn and Earn micro-business case, or check Corporate Voices’ most recent tool,Business and Community College Partnerships: A Blueprint.

WAFCFor more than a decade, Corporate Voices has provided leading best-practice employers a forum to improve the lives of working families, while strengthening our nation’s economy.  Many employers accomplish this by supporting the educational attainment of current and future employees.  In order to ensure that individuals have the skills to succeed in the workplace and are on education and career pathways to earning family sustaining wages, employers often partner with community colleges in Learn and Earn models of talent development.

Each week, in an effort to highlight these best practice models, Corporate Voices will spotlight a distinct Learn and Earn partnership between a business and community college. This week, we are pleased to highlight the Western Association of Food Chains (WAFC).

The sole mission of WAFC, an organization representing companies in the retail and wholesale food industry, is to build education depth throughout the food industry.  Through its Retail Management Certificate Program, WAFC has partnered with more than 135 community colleges to utilize standard academic course work offered by most community colleges to create an industry recognized certificate.  As budget cuts force these community colleges to evaluate resource allocations and expenditures, their food industry partners offer onsite classroom usage within their facilities, supplementing valuable on-campus space.  Additionally, employer partners provide adjunct instructors steeped in current learning needs of the industry.

For more information on WAFC, please read the Learn and Earn micro-business case, or check Corporate Voices’ most recent tool, Business and Community College Partnerships: A Blueprint.

On Monday, February 13, 2012, President Obama released his proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 Budget. While the president’s Budget is effectively a blueprint for the next fiscal year, it also offers an early glimpse of his administration’s key priorities for both tax policy and government spending, and sets the stage for his reelection themes. Ultimately, the president’s budget proposal must traverse the divided legislative branch and its toxic atmosphere–thus, rendering another presidential Budget “dead on arrival”.

With that said, a clear picture of President Obama’s election year priorities emerges from the 2013 Budget. Corporate Voices applauds the administration’s focus on building the skills of American workers through several key proposals.  The Pathways Back to Work Fund, for example, includes continued support of the Workforce Innovation Fund, that, paired with broader waiver authority, will encourage States, regions, and localities to break down barriers among programs, test new ideas, and replicate proven strategies for delivering bet­ter employment and education results in a more cost-effective way. Similarly, the Budget also proposes a new Community College to Career Fund, an $8 billion initiative designed to improve access to job training across the nation by supporting State and community college partnerships with businesses to build the skills of American workers. For more on the proposal, please see this White House summary.

Building on its community college focus, the president’s budget also includes funding for the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAA CCCT) program, to help community colleges—partnering with employers and local workforce boards–improve and expand their programs to meet local and regional labor market demands. Through rigorous evaluation, data collection, and greater use of employer collaboration and online learning, the program will help colleges advance approaches that will produce the greatest returns for their students.

In the arena of tax policy, Corporate Voices is pleased to see that the Budget permanently extends expansions of the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit that were passed in the Recovery Act and continued as part of the bipartisan Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act that the President negotiated and signed into law in December of 2010.

While the likelihood of President Obama’s FY 2013 Budget passing through Congress as it stands is very slim, Corporate Voices is encouraged to see an emphasis on building partnerships between community colleges and employers and replicating innovative training programs that produce results and help to improve the lives of America’s working families.

Recently, Corporate Voices for Working Families announced its latest publication documenting the important ways in which business leaders and postsecondary educators can collaborate to serve their mutual goals. Business and Community College Partnerships: A Blueprint, offers practical advice, best-practice models, and concrete action steps for business and college leaders who hope to start, sustain, or expand successful community partnerships.

The new blueprint was the topic of lively discussion last month in Miami when the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) hosted its annual Workforce Development Institute. The event included some 450 workplace experts, employers, policy leaders and government officials from across the nation. Peg Walton, Corporate Voices’ Senior Director of Workforce Readiness, joined them to lead a session on business-community college partnerships, and shared the perspective of Corporate Voices’ partner companies on this important work.