From the 41 interviews conducted, this study provides community colleges, future grantees of federal workforce initiatives including other training providers and the public workforce system, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and other policymakers, and other stakeholders with insights about how to approach, build, and sustain strong partnerships with business.
Community colleges can and do collaborate with employers to ensure their education and training programs align with industry needs and their graduates are qualified for local jobs. Employers can offer guidance on the curriculum, skills, and competencies that should be the focus of training and credentialing. They may serve on advisory boards or coordinate with other employers as part of industry partnerships. They can provide valuable resources such as their own employees as instructors, equipment and facilities for training, and work-based learning opportunities. Moreover, employers can refer their own workers to college programs to upgrade their skills.
This study utilized two data sources to answer the following research questions (i) a fall 2017 survey of TAACCCT colleges conducted for the TAACCCT Round 4 Evaluation and (ii) spring 2018 telephone interviews with 41 employers that were identified as strong partners of a TAACCCT-funded community college:
- What constitutes “strong” employer relationships for workforce development initiatives, and how can DOL and other leaders support and leverage these relationships across the workforce system?
- What types of employers are involved in strong relationships with TAACCCT-funded community colleges?
- What is the employer’s role in developing and implementing workforce development initiatives?
- What is the nature of the relationship between the employer and TAACCCT college(s)?
- How did the relationship between the employer and TAACCCT college(s) develop, and how sustainable does it appear to be?
- What is the value of the involvement in workforce development initiatives to employers?
Major Findings & Recommendations
The research team explored different dimensions of partnership strength: the length of the relationship with the college; the number of education and training programs on which employers and colleges collaborate; the number of different staff who engage with the college; and the degree to which employers make financial contributions or help colleges pursue funding. Key findings include:
- Employers reported that partnerships ranged in length from a few years (21 employers) to decades (12 employers).
- More than half of the employers reported that partnerships focused on a single education and training program (29 employers) and the other 12 employers reported collaborating with the college on multiple programs.
- Almost two-thirds involved more than one staff person in cultivating a relationship with the college (27 employers).
- Relatively few employers made financial contributions (5) or helped the college apply for grants (7).
- Employers that collaborated with colleges for six to 10 years (8 employers) involved multiple staff in the partnership, worked with the college to pursue grant funding and collaborated on more than one education and training program more frequently than did employers with shorter or longer collaborations.
The research team asked the 41 employers interviewed what suggestions they had for colleges that want to build strong employer relationships. The following are the employers’ recommendations to colleges for approaching employers to begin partnerships:
- Visit businesses personally and attend industry association meetings.
- Enlist industry-savvy college leadership in upfront conversations with employers.
- Involve employer partners in the design stage and be flexible and innovative.
- Carefully calibrate the “ask."
Additional details on the researchers' findings and recommendations can be found in Section 7 of the report on pages 39 and 40.