The Power of the Education-Industry Partnership

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The Power of the Education-Industry Partnership: Fostering Innovation in Collaboration Between Community Colleges and Businesses

The Center for American Progress

 Collaboration between community colleges and business leaders as part of the “new vocationalism” educational movement may provide individuals not suited to a traditional college curriculum with the skills to succeed in the labor market, according to this report. Because community colleges seem to  “stand closest to the crossroads of higher education and the real world,” compared with other postsecondary institutions, academic programs that offer professional development resources, instructional courses and other support mechanisms can help students to balance classroom education with workforce participation.

Community colleges currently serve an estimated 12 million students but many students do not complete the curriculum; just  22 percent of full-time students on average complete their degree. Taking into consideration the “life realities” of community college students, the new vocationalism model would supplement classroom coursework with “real world content and values offering applied and work-based learning experiences” while simultaneously benefitting area businesses and economy.

Because most community colleges are not currently designed to include vocational programming, the author of the report suggests that five “best practices” are needed in order to implement a new classroom structure, including adjusting curriculum and credential requirements, developing campus career centers, providing support for faculty and staff, creating leadership bodies to manage partnerships with businesses and workplaces and integrating university programs.

The report also highlights three case studies of collaborative partnerships that have already benefitted students. In Louisville, Ky., for example, students at Metropolitan College were able to work night shifts at UPS and attend classes during the day. Students were able to defer tuition but had to attend workplace training programs. The number of UPS workers with college degrees at that location increased from 8 percent in 1998 to 45 percent just over a decade later. UPS also benefitted from a higher job retention rate among its workers.

Research on collaboration efforts is limited; the author suggests policymakers must focus on how to secure funding for and encourage development of these partnerships.

Free, 15 pages, http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2010/09/pdf/community_colleges.pdf.