Training Industry

5 Success Factors for Community College Corporate Training

  • 5 Success Factors for Community College Corporate Training

More than ever before, there is a strong desire by most community college Presidents and Boards to grow their Workforce Development training function. For some colleges, this means growing an internal organization that is dedicated to working with corporations and businesses for the purpose of providing training services to the corporate client. It’s estimated that out of the 1200 community colleges in the U.S., approximately 100 currently have a strong organization dedicated to providing services directly to the corporate client.

The desire to grow is driven by a need to generate new revenues and meet the economic development needs of their region. There have been only a few colleges that have been able to have ongoing growth delivering training services to business and industry, making us question what it is that makes the others successful.  
Obama’s administration has recently launched the Skills for America Program, with the objective of forming at least one new partnership between Community Colleges and Industry in each state. This program hopes to create momentum by increasing focus and funding. But to sustain relationships between industry and colleges, there has to be a long term value proposition.

Here are my 5 Success Factors for Corporate Training Divisions to create value for corporate clients.  

1.    College Leadership Support
Corporate Training functions within the community colleges must have the support of the President of the College and supported by College’s Board.   It’s critical this function reports directly to the President to ensure that there is alignment and focus at the senior level, which helps eliminate roadblocks to success.  The entire college leadership team needs to be actively engaged with business development by providing introductions to key community leaders.  Of the five reasons, this one is the most important for success.      

2.    Business Culture
Many colleges operate in an academic model. To be successful, the Corporate Training function must have an entrepreneurial culture.  It needs to be agile, responsive, quick-thinking with a strong focus on customer service. And it begins with talent; to have a good business culture you need to start with hiring the correct people.  You can train some of the entrepreneurial skills, but you must start with someone who is excited about a business environment.    

3.    Business Development
At most colleges the Corporate Training functions have good operational capabilities. The challenge is that operational skills do not always translate into great sales skills. I’ve rarely seen good operational personnel transition into a great sales person.  The best solution is to hire sales people with successful sales experience.  Once you have the correct people in place it is critical that you have proper training, systems and tools available.   You will need a marketing strategy designed for your goals and customer relationship management system to track client activity.   

4.    Business Financial Systems
Most colleges have very good financial systems to run their academic area.  Unfortunately academic systems do not work well for Corporate Training functions.  You may have heard the cliché, ‘running training like a business’. This definitely applies here. I suggest making the function financially accountable to the overall institution, but give it autonomy to operate financially like a business. Community Colleges generally operate as a cost center while successful Corporate Training functions operate as a profit and loss center. This allows the organization to be aligned better for meeting their client requirements. It is critical to have a strong P&L reporting system that can measure the financial results on a monthly basis.

5.    HR and Business Systems
Having HR and business systems that are agile and quick to respond is critical.  You will not meet your client’s needs if you have traditional academic bureaucracy, especially in hiring talent.  You will not meet your client’s needs if you have a slow process to purchase training supplies or equipment.  If these areas are an issue, you will need to improve them or find workaround solutions.

Compare your college’s Corporate Training function to these best practices. Where is your organization? Do you have a gap? As a 25 year professional of community colleges, I feel comfortable saying it’s time for Corporate Training Divisions of Community Colleges to change the paradigm and traditional models we’ve operated under for years. The business world continues to change in lightening speed, and our colleges must change with it. Let’s embrace the opportunity this economy is presenting us; let’s get out of the old business models we are accustomed to, and accept our responsibility of being an engine for economic development in our communities.  

Please let me know your thoughts.  Feel free to post your comments to this blog or send an email at or you can visit my website at


About the Author

Paul  Seidel

Paul Seidel is the Founder and President of Seidel Consulting LLC, a consulting and analyst firm specializing on assisting community colleges and corporate training organizations to better their business relationships. Since his retirement from Delta College Corporate Services (DCCS), Paul has championed the cause for community colleges to become more adept at doing business in the corporate training market.

As Executive Director of Delta College’s Corporate Services Division, Paul led one of the most successful organizations in the training outsourcing market, where DCCS was the only community college named to the Top 20 Training Outsourcing Companies list for 5 straight years. Paul has over 25 years of experience in Corporate Training.  Using his training background he has sold and established training programs and training centers globally. These activities have occurred in China, Morocco, Puerto Rico, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Israel, Mexico, and with many training centers and programs in United States.

His educational background includes a Master of Science in Educational Administration from Central Michigan University, a Bachelor of Science in Trade Technical Teaching from Ferris State University, and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Automotive Service Technology from Delta College.

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