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Partnerships for Progress: Tying Industry to Community Colleges

February 17, 2012

Partnerships for Progress: Tying Industry to Community Colleges, by Associate Director, Strategic Partnerships at STEMConnector™, Ted Wells

Connecting corporations to the educational pipeline is critical in order to ensure that the United States has a competitive workforce in STEM fields. Community Colleges constitute a major vehicle to create these linkages by providing employers access to trained talent and input into educational program design. Increased collaboration between community colleges and employers holds the promise of reducing skill mismatches in the marketplace. These mismatches are the cause of significant unemployment – an estimated additional 2.5 percent – according to Narayana Kocherlakota, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. In addition to bringing new employees into the workforce, community colleges also serve as training centers for incumbent employees to hone their professional skills gaining additional credentials for advancement.


The Obama Administration included $8 billion in funding for Community College Industry Partnerships in the FY 2013 proposed Budget. The public policy and business case for this initiative is clear. First, in order to remain competitive in the global economy, the United States must have a well-trained workforce. Second, the cost of 4-year colleges and universities has become so high that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are forced into a poverty trap. Community colleges provide affordable and local access to well-paying careers. Finally, jobs that will earn a salary to afford a middle-class lifestyle require advanced skills that require strong STEM foundations. Industry partnerships with community colleges will connect the producers and buyers in labor markets so that students are set up for success and prosperity.


Industry groups, workforce development agencies and educational institutions are working together on aligning programs with jobs. In STEM fields, opportunity abounds in fields like computer and network administration and advanced manufacturing. The Manufacturing Institute at the National Association of Manufacturers designs customized education and training strategies to meet manufacturers’ demand for skilled workers. The Department of Labor is currently dispensing $2 Billion in Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training (TAACCCT) over four years to help workers affected by trade gain access to high skill, high wage jobs. Industry and education must continue to align their efforts in order to succeed.


Many of STEMconnector’s sponsors are actively engaged with community colleges developing innovative programs that provide pathways to employment. Additionally, many of these programs include a “learn and earn” component that permits students to gain workforce experience, earn money and apply the skills they are learning in their programs. By engaging in the educational pipeline, these companies will realize a return on investment in the form of a decrease in hiring costs and future training programs. These programs offer an exciting model for developing the workforce of the future.


Southern Company – In order to address critical needs for nuclear power technicians, Southern has partnered with August Technical College in Georgia Wallace Community College in Alabama to design the Nuclear Engineering Technology Degree. The two-year
program incorporates internships into a rigorous STEM-heavy curriculum.


National Grid – As many workers leave the electrical linemen profession, many utility companies are experiencing difficulties in finding qualified workers to fill these positions. National Grid has partnered with six community colleges across New York and Massachussetts to implement a two semester certificate programs that offer graduates valuable a credential for securing employment as linemen. National Grid is also partnered with Quinsigamond and North Shore Community Colleges to develop certificate and degree progams in Energy Utility Technology.


NextEra Energy – NextEra company FPL has partnered with community colleges in Florida in order to create a pipeline for trained employees to fill vacancies. Cooperation between these institutions includes funding, providing subject matter experts and
adjunct professors in the area of nuclear science and power generation.


Lockheed Martin – Lockheed Martin has developed apprenticeship programs to improve the talent pipeline across a variety of fields. In information technology, Lockheed has developed partnerships with Penn State – Bucks County and Howard Community College. In Bucks County, members of Lockheed Martin’s IT Apprenticeship Program that targets students from low income backgrounds, take IT courses that can later be applied to a 4-year program. With Howard Community College, Lockheed has partnered
to design an IT certification program that qualifies them for a good job.


Raytheon – Raytheon has partnered with Community Colleges in order to improve its existing workforce and to train and identify new talent. At North Essex Community College, Raytheon employees are taking courses to obtain the Electronic Equipment Technology certificate. The employees gain invaluable skills and gain a credential that demonstrates skills mastery to increase earning potential. Raytheon CEO Bill Swanson’s leadership has been critical for the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership’s Education and Workforce Development committee that focuses on building skills through community colleges.


AAR – A leader workforce planning, AAR has developed curriculum at Olive-Harvey College for A&P mechanic and avionics careers. Through this partnerships, AAR professionals assist in designing curriculum, teaching as adjunct professors and mentoring. Student gain applied industry knowledge and have the opportunity to obtain internships and potentially jobs at AAR’s Indianapolis and Wood Dale, IL facilities.


Kraft Foods – Through partnerships with regional Community Colleges, Kraft Foods has been able to develop localized talent to fill critical workforce needs by partnering with community colleges. In Illinois, Kraft partners with Parkland Community College to train incumbent workers in Six Sigma and industrial maintenance technicians.


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