Reviews the literature on different models of employer engagement in community college curriculum development and describes four case studies that illustrate these employer engagement models, with the aim of providing policy makers and institutional leaders ideas of how to close the gap between community college education and workforce needs.

“Community colleges have a long history [of]…collaborating with business and industry to meet local employment needs. They offer affordable tuition, open admissions, flexible course schedules, and convenient locations. They provide opportunities not only for students leaving high school, but also for older students, low-income and minority students, and working adults. Several problems, however, must be addressed if community colleges are to succeed as engines of workforce development and economic prosperity. These challenges include low rates of student persistence and completion and insufficient alignment among education standards and workforce expectations.

This brief is one of a series of four prepared for the April 27, 2011, Community College Virtual Symposium, a project of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, held at Montgomery College, Silver Spring, MD….This brief describes partnership efforts between community colleges and employers, exploring models promoting curricular change and innovation” (p.1).

“This series is intended to spur dialogue among state and institutional leaders and identify and disseminate policies and practices proven effective in meeting the challenges mentioned above” (p.1).

While employers partner with community colleges in many ways and for many purposes, such as by providing work-based learning to students and externships to faculty and by donating equipment, this brief focuses on employer participation in curriculum development…. [The authors suggest] a…way to view employer engagement at the curricular level: as a continuum of involvement that ranges from serving on advisory boards for technical degree programs to actively participating in the development of curriculum and training” (p.3).

The report first defines this continuum of employer involvement in curriculum development, then uses the following employer/community college partnerships as case studies to illustrate how they might work in practice:

·         McDonald’s English Under the Arches (in 14 regions)

·         Essential Skills Program, Community College of Denver

·         Automotive Manufacturing Technical Education Collaborative (in 12 states)

·         Wisconsin Regional Industry Skills Education, Shifting Gears Initiative

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

“The examples of promising partnerships in this brief represent various ways that colleges and employers can form partnerships. McDonald’s Under the Arches program is an example of an employer-led initiative to support employee development. [Essential Skills Program] illustrates a college’s response to local employers’ training needs. The [Automotive Manufacturing Technical Education Collaborative] development model provides an example of federal investment in a broad partnership to support a major U.S. industry. Finally, [Regional Industry Skills Education] was partly funded by resources from Shifting Gears, a foundation initiative to revitalize midwestern states’ economies. These examples…offer three specific findings…that can guide partners and policymakers as they work to develop other innovative partnerships. Solutions can be local. If community colleges are to be successful in meeting local and regional labor demands, then by definition, the solutions often need to be devised locally….[T]hese entities need to be encouraged to come up with innovations for their own communities. Having the right conditions in place for such changes— flexibility, creativity, expertise—can raise the probabilities that such solutions can be constructed. Ongoing relationships are key. Just as emergency first responders must maintain open channels of communication through crises, so, too, must those in the community college-industry partnership so that they can serve as first responders to changes in the local and regional labor market. They can keep these channels of communication open through such formal mechanisms as assigned participation on Workforce Investment Boards and advisory boards or individual arrangements between colleges and employers. More information sharing is needed. In each example, researchers noted a lack of access to information on innovative partnerships. While much has been published about employer-community college partnerships, partners could benefit from a more central repository of updated information or a shared knowledge base to learn from others who are facing similar implementation challenges…. Similarly, there is a…lack of evaluation data available on partnership initiatives. More research is need[ed] to determine how these initiatives affect students’ long-term academic or vocational achievements or how initiatives are sustained by the partners and for how long” (p.10-11). (Abstractor: Author)