Community Colleges are Key Players in Addressing Workforce Development Challenges

State community colleges are at the center of solving regional workforce development challenges across the United States.  Community colleges are affordable public colleges, funded by tax dollars. The highest degree available at a community college is usually an associate degree, which takes full-time students about two years to complete. 

Most importantly, community colleges are successful through the building of partnerships with area businesses that need help in developing workers. A growing role for community colleges is to provide educational certificate programs that may or may not lead students to gain an associate degree but arms them with the skills they need to succeed in targeted industries. Community colleges also are central to job retention and attraction strategies when state programs are created to support targeted industries. 

Ohio’s community colleges cover the entire state through a comprehensive network of campuses built over decades of state investment, and Ohio’s community colleges are prime drivers of workforce development in Ohio. Owens Community College is just one example of how the Buckeye State’s community college network is driving workforce development. Owens Community College in Northwest Ohio is home to the Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Logistics created in partnership with Bowling Green State University and the University of Findlay, housed at the Owens Community College Findlay, Ohio campus. The Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Logistics will work with area employers in the manufacturing and Logistics sectors to identify and anticipate their immediate, mid-term, and long-term needs in workforce training, talent development, innovation, automation, systems integration, and supply chain management, and will serve as a centralized resource where the business community can bring specific workforce needs for customized training solutions.

Workforce training in Georgia is provided through several initiatives, but the state’s signature program is Georgia Quick Start, a free program customized for companies in numerous industries. The oldest program of its kind in the U.S., Quick Start has updated the skill sets of more than 1 million employees in 6,500 projects. Quick Start helps companies maintain a competitive advantage by preparing workers for skill sets needed tomorrow as well as today. A Quick Start training regimen is shaped specifically for the skills that a company is looking to develop in its employees, training is conducted in classrooms, mobile labs or onsite at the company, Quick Start is provided at no charge by the Technical College System of Georgia, and Quick Start has prepared workers to assemble intricate aircraft components, grow bacteria for vaccines, manufacture plastic and metal products and field inquiries from customers, by phone or online.  Quick Start has also created the Georgia Advanced Manufacturing Training Center, a 50,000-square-foot, well-equipped facility with computer labs and equipment to help workers become more proficient in such areas as mechatronics, control systems, automation, robotics, and networked wireless systems.

The Virginia Talent Accelerator Program, delivered by Virginia Economic Development Partnership in partnership with the Virginia Community College System, provides training and recruitment solutions that are fully customized to a company’s unique operations, equipment, standards, and culture. All program services are provided at no cost to qualified new and expanding companies as an incentive for job creation.  Customized, job-specific training services are designed and delivered using methodologies and media determined to be most effective for accelerating learning in each topic. These can include hands-on training, simulations, broadcast-quality videos, illustrated work instructions, instructor-led classroom sessions, animations, and e-learning modules. All company-specific materials developed during the project become the property of the client and all proprietary information will be protected by a non-disclosure agreement.  Recruiting services can include advertising, customized websites, and broadcast-quality videos to tell the story of the unique job and lifestyle opportunities at a company’s Virginia location. Pre-employment training is also offered to give employers an opportunity to preview job candidates and give candidates an opportunity to preview the work. This ensures a good fit and in turn, minimizes new hire turnover.  In addition to recruiting and customized training services, the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program offers a robust suite of organizational development and operational excellence training and consulting services. These services help companies establish a collaborative culture and optimize individual performance.

Iowa’s Workforce Training and Economic Development (WTED) Fund was established in 2003 as part of the Grow Iowa Values Fund. This fund is an important source of financing for community college new program innovation, development, and capacity building, particularly for career and technical education. The WTED Fund may be used to support career academies,  career and technical education programs, entrepreneurship education and small business assistance, and general training, retraining, and educational initiatives for targeted industries. The WTED fund requires the application of 70 percent of appropriated funds to be used to support projects, programs, and initiatives that fall within Iowa’s targeted industry clusters defined in statute as advanced manufacturing, information technology and insurance, alternative and renewable energy, and life sciences, which include the areas of biotechnology, health care, and nursing technology.

From Ohio to Georgia to Virginia to Iowa and beyond, community colleges are critical workforce development partners for companies seeking to retain and attract jobs to their region.