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NCWE Board Member Blog - Kim Becicka
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Strategic Workforce Partnerships Lead to Positive Results

    Dr. Kim Becicka
    Vice President, Continuing Education and
      Training Services
    Kirkwood Community College


Community colleges play a strong and vital role in our nation’s workforce development system. As community colleges, we find ourselves engaged with our communities and regions to provide leadership and resources to support the workforce needs of our communities. Yet the workforce development system involves a myriad of partners, employers, nonprofit community organizations, economic development organizations, cities and county governments, as well as local, state, and national players. Working effectively within the workforce system takes collaboration and a significant time investment to develop deep relationships and joint strategies.

When we speak about workforce development, we often think of the three strategic areas: workforce attraction, retention and talent development. Another way to look at workforce development is thinking of it as a three-legged stool that represents the collaborative partners that draw together and work strategically to leverage significant impact in this complex area. To be effective players and leaders in the workforce development system, community colleges must position themselves to work within this collaborative and form strategic partnerships that holistically support academic and noncredit workforce training and education.

Employer engagement is critical to workforce solutions, thus, community colleges should take a leadership role in promoting engagement among educational institutions and regional employers. This partnership ensures an alignment between education and workforce needs. Additionally, industry sector boards and career pathway strategies should be employer-led initiatives to support talent development. To effectively engage the employers, I recommend the following:

  • Allow employers to lead!
  • Goals and strategies need to be set by the employer partners.
  • Foster connections between needs of employers to training and development initiatives (information to action).

Education, Social Services and Nonprofit Organizations
All three of these organizations focus on talent development for both incumbent workers, unemployed/underemployed, and populations with significant challenges to self-sufficiency. Diverse programs are designed to meet the unique needs of these varied populations. Community colleges should build partnerships through being a partner:

  • Ask how you can support the goals of the organization
  • Find ways to leverage resources together
  • Communicate how you can help meet workforce priorities
  • Jointly host and sponsor mutually beneficial events, workshops, or meetings

Regional Economic Development, Diversity Organizations, and Arts/Cultural Organizations
To attract and retain workers communities must offer amenities such as a great place to live, work, and play. Economic development organizations focus on business attraction, new jobs, and job retention. Diversity and Arts/Cultural Organizations focus on the quality of life in the region which is important to attracting both business to the region as well as employees who want to live in the region.

To build a strong and indispensable partnership with economic development organizations:

  • Assist them in achieving their investor goals
  • Administer job training incentive programs
  • Develop custom programs in alignment with employer needs
  • Be at the table with new location prospects and existing industry campaigns

Understanding the workforce development partnership landscape is critical to the success of community college workforce programs. It doesn’t matter if these programs are academic or noncredit programs; delivered to traditional or nontraditional students; or designed for low-income individuals. Support for these programs through a multi-partner workforce development system is how effective workforce development services are achieved.

Jain, R., Newman, A., & Montes, M. (2017). Investing In Workforce Program Innovation: A Formative Evaluation of Five Workforce Organizations’ Experiences During the Human Capital Innovation Fund Initiative, AspenSWI at the Aspen Institute, Washington, DC.

“A Resource Guide to Engaging Employers,” (2014, Jobs for the Future)

Becicka, K. (2016). Building Effective Partnerships, (2016, June). Presentation at the LERN Best Practice Conference, Cedar Rapids, IA.

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