Offers examples of promising partnerships between community colleges and employers and provides recommendations about how such partnerships can be cultivated.

“This resource guide presents working models of…employer engagement and lessons for securing and sustaining partnerships with employers. It was written to help education and training providers fully realize the value of strategic, long-term, and intensive partnerships with employers… [but] it is relevant to all practitioners in workforce, career, and technical education, and adult education.

To develop this guide, the author researched current literature on employer engagement, with a particular focus on partnerships between community colleges and employers. [The author] looked for the best examples that have a demonstrated track record—especially ones mentioned in multiple sources—and that are relevant to the advancement of lower-skilled and/or lower-income adult workers. There are a number of useful frameworks and models in circulation; this resource guide draws on and synthesizes them to provide a compact introduction for staff in community colleges and workforce programs” (p.1).

“This guide responds to a mismatch between the demand and supply sides of the labor market. While there is considerable effort on the part of the workforce community, in colleges and elsewhere, to connect to employers and provide the best-skilled job candidates, those efforts do not always translate into results valued by employers. This mismatch is well illustrated by the ‘perception gap’ between educators and employers, recently documented by the Lumina Foundation. According to a study conducted by Gallup for Inside Higher Ed, 96 percent of chief academic officers claimed to be ‘extremely or somewhat confident’ that their institutions are preparing students for success in the workforce. In contrast, just 11 percent of employer representatives said they believe that graduates have the skills and competencies needed by their businesses (Lumina 2014).

The resource guide presents employer engagement models from community colleges across the United States. The author notes that the resource is useful to workforce professionals because, “Engaging employers produces benefits at every stage of the educational process…But the simplest case for it is this: neither employers nor educators can accomplish their goals in the labor market alone” (p.2).

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

The resource includes promising models for connecting with employers in the areas of advising, building educational capacity, co-designing curricula and career pathways, convening workforce partnerships, and leading and sustaining regional partnerships. In addition, the following recommendations are made:

“Know your employers. Do the initial research to select the right partners and tailor strategy accordingly: are they growing, declining, or stable? What industry or sector? What is their history of partnership? Cast a wide net within the firm. Strengthen relationships with employers by engaging members at multiple levels of the organization—not only human resource or workforce staff but also high-level leadership and department manager.

Learn to speak ‘business.’ Be problem- rather than program-focused. Translate academic terminology or ‘grant speak’ into a common language…

Bring value to the table. Be clear about the value your institution can create for business, and the assets you can offer. What courses or programs of study currently offered are relevant? How can new or revised curricula and credentials respond to business needs in specific skill areas? Cultivate and maintain relationships… Building a relationship takes time, early wins, and persistence. Once a working relationship is established, keep employers ‘in the loop’ about curriculum and program development, as well as student progress and outcomes…

Make employer participation user-friendly. Be clear about your specific needs. Coordinate contact lists and gatherings with other workforce-serving organizations in your region to avoid duplication; team up where feasible. Take inventory of your current workforce relationships and leverage them where possible, rather than initiating partnerships from scratch...

Build on business networks. Recruit new partners through existing ones. Lead with employers to make the case to additional employers. Identify and cultivate employer champions. Focus on producing systems changes, not just programmatic outcomes (p.18)."  (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)