Both private, for-profit corporate training companies and community college workforce development and corporate training departments compete for training contracts as well as create meaningful partnerships between each other to meet the requests of employers in today’s training marketplace. This simultaneously competitive and collaborative environment spreads across entry-level job skill development to mid-level incumbent worker training and even upper-level leadership consulting and training services.
Three Robust Community College Workforce Development and Corporate Training Departments
In this article, three leaders of robust community college workforce development and corporate training departments talk about how they see themselves as highly advantageous choices for meeting a wide range of corporate training needs.
Deb Norris, Vice President of Workforce Development and Corporate Services at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio, explained how the holistic nature of the department she leads helps to bring about numerous close relationships with businesses throughout the Ohio Miami Valley region for the formation of multi-faceted workforce development and training solutions.
Mac McGinty, Vice President of the Community College Workforce Alliance (CCWA) noted how this partnership between J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College and John Tyler Community College serves the economic development and workforce needs of four cities and 12 counties in Central Virginia.
Roy Winkler, Executive Director of Ivy Tech Community College’s Corporate College in East Central Indiana, explained how his staff works toward meeting the needs of business, industry, and adult students throughout seven counties in East Central Indiana, led by three community college campuses in Anderson, Marion, and Muncie.
Cost Effectiveness, Economic Development and College Credit
Norris, McGinty and Winkler all agreed that they bring cost-competitive corporate training products and services to their local constituencies because part of their overhead – such as office space and utilities located on community college property – is primarily funded by state tax dollars. In addition, they all agreed that cost is not the primary advantage that they bring to the table, each citing that they have a mission to improve regional economic development. They were also quick to add that they do not view themselves as competing with private training companies. In some cases they seek out private training companies to partner with in order to augment what they may not have the expertise in or ability to provide to business and industry.
“I don’t have to pay for my rent because it is paid for through tax money,” McGinty said. “When I have to bill a project, I can look at it as almost a direct cost, meaning what it costs to put that particular program on without that overhead.”
“We are all about being aligned with the employers in our community,” Norris explained. “We are tied very closely to economic development. That is our mindset. Just like we look at individual students and how we want them to be successful when they come here, we want companies to be successful, however they define success. That could be through finding efficiencies in their business, through Lean and Six Sigma process improvements, through consultative approaches with supervisors and managers, and through leadership development.”
In addition, there are degree- and credit-granting factors that come into play when enrolled in courses and programs offered by community colleges. “Some companies require credit for tuition reimbursement,” said Winkler. McGinty added that it’s becoming more common for local manufacturing companies to have their entry-level and incumbent machine operators and technicians enroll in for-credit machining courses and programs. “They build their skills slowly, but the skills are more in-depth and it becomes more of an education than just straight skill training.”
Offering More than Skilled Labor Training
Contrary to popular belief, Norris, McGinty and Winkler also emphasized how they provide much more than job-skill training courses and programs to their clients, offering a variety and growing number of initiatives aimed at middle- and senior-management personnel. “That perception [of community colleges having expertise only in job-skill training] is changing,” Winkler said, adding that “we offer virtually anything that Purdue University can offer through their similar department.” He mentioned, for example, how Ivy Tech Corporate College was currently sponsoring a one-day “Disney Approach to Business Excellence” seminar that is geared specifically toward high-level management professionals. “We do a lot of leadership seminars that are aimed at CEOs,” he said. “They are typically for medium- sized companies because we are located in a rural region.”
The same holds true for Sinclair’s Workforce Development and Corporate Services department. “We don’t really have large corporations in the Dayton region anymore,” Norris said. “One of our sweet spots is more of a midsize market where we deal with many CEOs and C-level individuals. They may not run vast organizations, but they are senior leadership. We do a fair amount of leadership development, executive coaching, session planning and organizational alignment at the high end.”
McGinty concurred, adding that “we have some really good examples of where we work with executives. For example, we have four management coaching consultants, and all they do is go out and work one-on-one with senior management.”
Partnering with the Private Sector
Providing customized training solutions to business and industry is also part and parcel of the community college efforts covered in this article. An interesting aspect of these kinds of contracts is that community colleges will partner with private training companies when needed. “They (private training companies) might have some equipment or a curriculum that we don’t have and we will partner with them to provide a service,” Winkler said. “The main thing is to get the client what the client needs. We’ll work with anybody.”
“We don’t really want to go out competing,” Norris said. “Our biggest competition is a company that will not make a decision to move forward. We are not here competing to lose it to someone else. We will bring in private training companies as partners, particularly those that are smaller and have expertise that really goes deep into what we do not have nor intend to build.
“The key is getting to understand the client. As a community college, we are going to be here for a long time, and we have long standing relationships. We define our services in a lot of ways. We are responsible for giving the best possible solution and service to our clients, regardless of who we may broker with.”
Written for TrainingIndustry.com