This framework provides useful tools to assist colleges in identifying new areas for engagement, how to’s for implementing engagement activities, and means for managing the partnerships. Based on our research, observation, and experiences, we will provide employer viewpoints, college best practices, and case studies of successful engagement activities that work.
The results of strategic employer and industry sector engagement include:
- Increased enrollment
- Increased hiring rate of graduates
- Better aligned skills and curricula
- Improved labs and facilities
- Increased understanding and respect between business and education
- Increased community awareness of college programs
- Increased funding opportunities
The Need for Strategic Thinking
Employer engagement takes many forms and can start gradually and grow organically. However, there is a need for strategic thinking to maximize the value of the engagement.
When there is evidence of strong employer engagement in program development, all other areas of employer input will increase. For example, when the college has a strong model of engagement in program development, the following are likely.
- It is easier to get other employers engaged and to generate new ways to connect them to the program and college.
- Programs with input from employers lead to increased graduation and graduate placement rates.
- Engaged employers are aware of program and college needs and offer to connect them to their networks and resources or to make donations to benefit the program.
- Engaged employers have an increased awareness of the real challenges and opportunities which may lead to them lending their name to advocacy, sector leadership, or branding.
Through participation in sector partnerships, colleges can achieve deepened, ongoing relationships with employers in key local industries. This approach increases the ability of colleges to develop and offer real, market-relevant career pathways that prepare workers for good jobs in their community and ultimately result in hiring the graduates of the programs. (Corporation for a Skilled Workforce: Developing Market-Relevant Curricula and Credentials: Employer Engagement for Community Colleges in Partnerships)
Ways Businesses Can Help
- Recruit students
- Serve as a student mentor
- Provide work-based learning experiences or in-service activities for instructors
- Open industry-based training to instructors
- Support instructors’ memberships/participation in trade associations
- Provide work-based learning experiences for students (simulations; laboratory experiences; field trips; internships; clinicals; paid and unpaid work experiences)
- Teach a module or topic
- Advise on resource needs (equipment, labs, staff qualifications, and facilities)
- Assist in the acquisition of needed equipment and supplies
- Assist with placement of completers
- Provide resources (equipment, material, facilities)
- Share libraries of visual aids, books, and magazines
Assessment and Counsel
- Review curriculum (objectives; structure and length; curriculum frameworks and course descriptions; assessments; industry credentials; safety; course materials)
- Advise on academic, technical, and employability standards
- Modify existing programs and/or identify new or emerging fields
- Review student outcomes (completion rates, placement rates, and state licensing examination outcomes) for the pathway
- Assist in surveys of local labor market needs
- Assist in identifying state-of-the-art equipment needs
- Assess the equipment and facilities available and make recommendations as needed
Promotion and Advocacy
- Interpret the career pathway and program to the community
- Serve as an advocate of the career pathway and related program
- Seek legislative support for the college and its programs
- Present to civic groups
- Author newspaper articles
- Assist in raising funds for scholarships, equipment, and other program needs
- Leverage community resources and broker community partnerships
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