Training Industry

Workforce Development

  • Skills for America’s Future Focused on Developing Strategic Partnerships between Community Colleges and Employers

Accenture teamed up with six community colleges to offer a Community Teach Program that has helped thousands of students develop the skills they need to succeed in the working world. Discovery Communications partnered with Montgomery College to provide internships, guest lectures by Discovery executives, training on resume development and interview skills and other programs to help students develop the skills they need to find and keep a job. Pacific Gas & Electric Company created a PowerPathway™ Workforce Development Program in partnership with California community colleges and universities, local workforce investment boards, unions and industry employers to build a pipeline of skilled workers for California’s energy and utilities workforce.

More information about these “Models of Success,”  and additional examples of corporate/community college partnerships, can be linked to from the Skills for America’s Future website. Supported by the Aspen Institute’s Economic Opportunities Program, Skills for America’s Future is an employer-led initiative that started in October 2010 with the goal of fostering “partnerships between employers and community colleges to address America’s pressing jobs issue.” To date it “has successfully helped create or expand partnerships between more than 50 employers and 200 community colleges across the country and formed strategic partnerships with major industry associations.”

Bringing Value to the Worker Pipeline as well as Incumbent Employees

Community colleges bring value that not only helps to develop a pipeline for future workers, but they also provide training to meet the needs of employers’ incumbent workers, said Karen Elzey, director of Skills for America’s Future. “We want corporate trainers to recognize that community colleges can be part of the solution. Community colleges can sit down and work with companies and help them identify what their skill needs are as well as curriculum and training opportunities they can provide in order to help corporations meet their hiring and training objectives.”

In short, Skills for America’s Future is a multi-functional conduit and information resource for the establishment of employer and community college partnerships. Elzey noted that the initiative sees these partnerships in three primary ways: 

  1. Building relationships around current job openings: How are people being prepared to fill those job openings?
  2. Skill needs of incumbent workers: How can a community college help incumbent workers maintain their skills or learn new skills so they can take on new tasks?
  3. For the good of the greater community: A company might get engaged with a community college that does not lead to jobs with the company but does help impart skills that will make individuals more successful in the labor market.

A Successful Partnership between Community Colleges and Gap Inc.

The first partnership that the initiative got involved with was a program between retailer GAP Inc., and, at the outset, seven community colleges. Called Gap Inc. for Community Colleges, the program is all about training and hiring community college students for entry-level retail management jobs. Students attend three workshops at partnering community colleges where they learn about resume writing, interviewing, developing career objectives, communication skills, and time management skills. The workshops are based on Gap’s in-house training program and are taught by volunteer Gap store managers.

“Today the Gap has 21 partnerships with community colleges across the country,” said Elzey. “It’s a great example of a company that had not worked with community colleges before and now sees the real value of these community college partnerships. They started small and are continuing with clear goals to expand.” Since the program started in late 2010, 1,200 students have completed the program and have been hired by Gap.

“We helped them indentify some of the community colleges that would be good for their expansion efforts,” Elzey said. “We brought attention to their program. The beauty of this partnership is that the Gap does this because it is of benefit to them and to the students. They are looking at talent from a different source, from community colleges, a place in which they had not looked for talent in the past. They are providing opportunities to students that are leading to jobs.”

More Support and Services Coming in 2013

As Skills for America also grows, it has plans to provide more services in 2013, including peer-to-peer learning activities and roundtable discussions around issues related to community college/employer partnerships “as a way to engage more employers in the conversation and hold up promising practices and really look at these partnerships more in-depth,” Elzey explained. “What is a partnership really like? How is it financed? How is it sustained over time?

“We really serve as a national voice for the value of community college/employer partnerships.”

Written for TrainingIndustry.com

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