School-Business Partnerships Key to Job Training

by |September 13, 2011
President Obama addresses Congress

President Barack Obama speaks about jobs to a Joint Session of Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 8. Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner are seated behind the president. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Obama’s proposed American Jobs Act was presented to Congress this week. Included in the $447 billion jobs package is about $5 billion toward community college construction. Community colleges are uniquely positioned to provide workforce training and higher education. These institutions are in the spotlight with increased demand for effective job growth strategies.

The nation’s almost 1,100 community colleges face numerous challenges. As with all workforce development efforts, continuous updating is required. Industries and the nature of work rapidly shift. Resources for community college renovation, energy efficiency and technological upgrading are essential to future success.

However, even with upgrades, community colleges need additional strategies. Linkages to industry, universities, local governments and other partners increase value. Community colleges do not automatically place students in jobs or universities, or lead graduates down career paths. Their potential to succeed in these areas is greatly enhanced through partnerships.

The Earth Institute’s Program on Strategic Partnerships and Innovation investigates the value and potential of such cross-sector partnerships. Recently, creative approaches to collaboration including community colleges have emerged.

Delgado Community College in New Orleans, La., connects with employers in its region. Through its Workforce Development and Education Unit, Delgado forecasts industry growth. It increases awareness of employer needs and job opportunities. This knowledge informs Delgado’s curriculum and training.

America’s largest community college, Miami Dade College in Florida, allows local employers to create a free online account. These accounts help employers post jobs and internships, and review resumes of students and alumni.

Overall, community colleges have not been fully tapped to enhance economic opportunities. They are poised to align with policies encouraging industrial growth and expanding employers. This coordination will not happen without deliberate attention and targeted investments.

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