By now, you have undoubtedly heard the name Jackie Bray. She is the single Mom from Charlotte, North Carolina that President Obama identified on Tuesday night in his State of the Union Address. Jackie had lost her job as a mechanic. What happened next is a strong example of the partnerships happening between community colleges and industries all around the country. According to President Obama, the company Siemens “opened a gas turbine factory in Charlotte, and formed a partnership with Central Piedmont Community College” Siemens worked with the college to design courses in laser and robotics training, paid Jackie’s tuition, and hired her to help operate their plant.
Shifts in the economy, changing workforce demands, the growing need to provide widespread access to up to date skills and the unique position of community colleges to meet the demands of their individual regions is what has driven these partnerships with the private sector. And perhaps nowhere have these partnerships been more successful than in the already established practices of Advanced Technological Education programs around the country.
In building a successful partnership, consider the following five factors from the UCLA Community College Review:
1. Recognize a local/regional economic development challenge that calls for collaborative attention
Through regular conversations that identify common interests or community concerns civic leaders, industry representatives and community college administrators can formulate plans to address them. For example, at South Carolina Advanced Technological Education Center (SCATE), they facilitate this through the establishment of an Industry Consortium. Established in 1996, this model “provides a framework for colleges and their business/industry partners to work together to ensure a highly skilled technical workforce.”
2. Establish a shared mission and goals
The Laramie County Community College and officials of Wyoming for example share a common goal for increasing business opportunities in their region. On a national level, the Obama administration has set a goal to increase the amount of power generated from the wind to 20% by 2030. In Wyoming, wind reaches 30 to 40 mph with gusts of 50 or 60 mph. It is an ideal place to generate electricity from it and thus it presents a viable industry for the state’s future economy. Local communities therefore are very involved with the Wind Energy industry and working to incorporate it into their workforce. In response, Laramie County Community College in partnership with industry representatives at companies like Duke Energy Generation Services has created a successful, related degree program which was profiled in ATETV Episode 46.
3. Ensure that value is achieved for all partners (including students)
To ensure that a partnership is successful, community colleges working with private industry must identify the benefits up front, provide regular opportunities to reassess them and be flexible enough to change them when industry demands. Because all ATE Centers are created as cooperative efforts in which two-year colleges work with four-year colleges and universities, secondary schools, business, industry, and government, they’re organized to function this way from the start. Their programs are all designed to always be mutually beneficial. According to the NSF, these programs include: development of resources, such as high-quality programs and curricula that reflect the modern technological workplace, the training and placement of both mentors and interns, and the on-going evaluation of the center’s materials and services and their impact on student learning, and on employers and the institutions that manage the center.
4. Have strong executive leadership from both the college and industry participants
Every ATE National Center has organizational leadership that works to establish the initial vision, goals, and values that will inform all subsequent decisions. These leaders often include both industry and education professionals. SpaceTec, the National Science Foundation’s Center for Aerospace Technical Education in Florida, for example, has a “SpaceTec Partners, Inc Board”, which is comprised of representatives that include the President of Brevard Community College as well as the Director of Florida Operations at the Bionetics Corporation.
5. Develop a governance and accountability mechanisms
Advanced Technological Education programs achieve this in many ways. One example is by establishing a National Visiting Committee. At Florida Advanced Technological Education Center (FL-ATE), their committee is made up of leaders in industry, education, workforce and economic development from across the nation, with local representation. Committee members meet regularly with Fl-ATE staff to ensure stated goals and objectives are met.
To create a similar partnership in your community to the one mentioned in the State of the Union Address, you have only to look as far as an ATE Center for help. Advanced Technological Education programs have a successful track record with this work that reflects the benefits of such collaborations. It is because of this, that students get exposure to a wide range of technologies and will graduate with the experience they require to make them highly marketable.