Collaborating on Shared Issues
Knowing what your employers are interested and involved in can lead to greater engagement. Do they serve on or lead state, national, or international associations and organizations related to their industry? When you interact with them, focus on issues that are at the forefront of every industry association—skills, training, and technology. Where will the next generation of workers come from? How can employers connect with education to let them know what skills are needed in the workplace? What best practices are being used by others across the country or around the globe? These are the topics that interest all employers regardless of geography or industry sector.
The information the employer brings back from these associations can assist your college in developing programs that serve as models for the rest of the country. It also establishes the employer as a sector leader who is positioned to ask fellow industry leaders to join in the important work of advocating for your college and its programs.
Moving from Partner to Advocate
Being an advocate involves far more than hiring graduates. It is about preparing a workforce that keeps the local economy strong. It is about a group of employers being proactive in helping the college increase its awareness of and relevance to the community it serves.
Committed advocacy takes time and engagement at the corporate CEO and college president level. As you reach out to employers, keep a broad perspective that crosses program lines, bearing in mind that manufacturing (for example) hires IT and business graduates and healthcare hires accounting and facilities maintenance graduates. This broader perspective creates a comprehensive ecosystem that has relevance to a broad range of employers. Rather than being informed about one college program, the employer now is aware of multiple programs that feed into the employee pipeline.
As regulations, formulas, and funding for education change, colleges need their employers’ voices to advocate for the importance of technical education. When employers join you at legislative events, economic forums, and other advocacy opportunities, their voices carry greater weight than the voice of the college. Two-year public institutions were created to provide a career-ready workforce to local employers. Employers’ voices should be heard.
- Be respectful of your employers’ ability to commit time to an effort.
- Align opportunities with the specific interests of employers.
- Take time to explain, inform, and prepare any employer you would like to engage as an advocate.
- Discuss with CEOs and other top-level executives how news about their engagement with the college is shared within their organizations. Colleges and businesses alike should share this news internally.