Higher Education Partnerships: Closing The Gap

Partnerships with higher education organizations are making a clear impact on businesses today, especially regarding workforce training.

By the BF Staff
From the May/June 2022 Issue

Anyone involved in commerce today would agree that the ever-evolving needs of businesses such as theirs are constantly changing. One way to remain competitive is to ensure employees have access to lifelong learning opportunities. While it’s easy to espouse, many companies are simply not aware of just how large in scope the issue really is. For instance, recent reports note that at least half of the employees in this country will need some level of reskilling within in the next three years.

For any company, this can be a daunting statistic but thankfully there are a number of innovative programs and partnerships in higher education institutions both existing, and emerging, that are available to help them, and their workforce, learn new skills. A growing number of programs, in fact, were created to help fill specific training gaps that have been identified in the marketplace. This includes industries such as aerospace, manufacturing, cybersecurity, information technology, and others.

Workforce Training Higher Education
(Photo: Adobe stock By Methaphum)

One thing is clear—for now, and the foreseeable future, the labor market will be increasingly dependent on skilled workers who can help them reach their goals. Aligning with partners who can help your company realize its vision will be key. Following is a brief rundown of some of the unique collaborations taking place right now.

Pflugerville Prioritizes Higher Education Partnerships To Ensure Future Workforce Growth

The Covid-19 epidemic had a major impact on the workforce in Pflugerville, TX, as it did on communities across the country. In the City of Pflugerville, there was not only an overall shortage of workers, but they discovered a gap existed between the skills of the workforce and the jobs available.

To cover this gap, the Pflugerville Community Development Corporation (PCDC) intensified its focus on the workforce and partnerships with higher education to expand opportunities for developing workforce skills and training. The partnership, started three years prior to the pandemic, provided the foundation to address further constraints in the tight labor market.

Using marketing, press releases, and social media, the PCDC has helped to spread the word about training for technician employment, which would create opportunities for workers to earn higher wages, as well as fill available technician positions at local Pflugerville businesses.

Amy Madison, PCDC Executive Director, explained, “These partnerships are crucial. Many times PCDC is the connection to the business, and we serve as a conduit between business needs and employees who are seeking better wages. ”PCDC also serves as the connection with workforce development.

“PCDC is the hub, and our partnerships are the spokes that are out there connecting with the larger industrial space, as well as the students and workforce so sorely needed. We are putting partnerships in place on an ongoing basis to help create a highly skilled and trained workforce,” said Madison.

Pflugerville Workforce Training
Above: A student enrolled at the Pflugerville Manufacturing Academy brushes nickel powder off a 3D printed chess piece created at the academy. Below: A student adjusts the setting for a 3D Printed item. Here, students learn in a classroom environment, and then move onto hands-on instruction. (Photos: Pflugerville Community Development Corp.)

Workforce Training

Major partnerships with several higher education organizations are making an impact on workforce training and giving employees the skills they need to find high wage employment. The Skill Point Alliance offers free, fast training in the skilled trades (including HVAC and electrical), and programs designed to lead to employment as manufacturing technicians.

The Pflugerville Manufacturing Academy Program, a partnership with Austin Community College (ACC), and Work-force Solutions Capital Area (WFSCA), has an additive manufacturing training course (also known as 3D printing) that provides an overview to students about this state-of-the-art equipment, which is manufactured locally in Pflugerville. Students are given 20 hours of virtual instruction as well as an additional 20 hours in a local additive manufacturing facility, where they are introduced to additive manufacturing, learn tool setup, operation, and equipment maintenance. Graduates of the Manufacturing Academy receive a Certificate in 3D. This program is unique to Pflugerville and cannot be found anywhere else.“

It’s exciting to take the roof off the building and show students what’s going on inside the facility. We have learned through our partnerships that to get people seeking careers in manufacturing, you must really ignite their interest and you can’t do that in a classroom. With this program, the classroom is the company, students get hands-on experience and find out how rewarding it can be to actually make something using high-tech machinery.”

With strong partnerships with higher education in place, Pflugerville is in an excellent position to train and retain a strong workforce for Pflugerville businesses today and in the future.

Unique Public-Private Partnership Makes Marion Ripe For Business

With businesses hungry for well-trained workforce, a unique partnership is preparing workers of today and educating students of tomorrow.

Breaking across silos, a strong partnership including Marion Technical College, Ohio State University at Marion, Tri-Rivers Career Center, superintendents of all local school districts, Marion CANDO! economic development, Ohio Means Jobs, the Marion Area Chamber of Commerce, and industry partners are collaborating on how to meet local workforce needs.“

Marion CANDO!
In 2020, Marion Tech Downtown opened its doors—providing new classroom space, a business incubator for entrepreneurs, and more. (Photo: Marion CANDO!)

This community works together to make it as easy as possible to meet the needs of local industry partners,” said Gus Comstock, Executive Director of Marion CANDO! “In a small town, everyone from the president of the college to the mayor to other business leaders are just a quick phone call away. We want to help businesses keep moving forward.”

Another c-suite executive agrees that the Marion Area Workforce Acceleration Collaborative (MAWAC) is remarkable.

“I’ve never lived in a place where school district superintendents and university leaders meet to develop programs for young people to help them identify future career opportunities. As an employer, we’ve hired new graduates, taken on interns, and given workforce development opportunities to current high school students. It’s very exciting,” said Rev. Kenneth Daniel, President and CEO of United Church Homes, one of nation’s largest nonprofit providers of senior living and healthcare services for older adults headquartered in Marion.

One way they reach area students is through the annual Made in Marion Expo, where thousands of students in 7th and 9th grade come to see demonstrations of locally manufactured products and learn about in-demand manufacturing careers.

In addition to the strong programs in robotics and advanced manufacturing at RAMTEC at Tri-Rivers, the engineering tech, robotics, and smart manufacturing certificates and degrees at Marion Technical College, and the new engineering lab at The Ohio State University at Marion, businesses can find customized training programs to meet their needs in one stop. Visit americaswdc.com to learn more about the training options and community resources available.

“As a community, Marion is invested in meeting the needs of businesses today,” said Tami Galloway, Program Manager for America’s Workforce Development Capital. “Marion Tech’s mobile training lab can drive a mobile classroom right to your doorstep and train your employees on site, from IT to our on-board Haas CNC machine.”

The needs of business and industry are constantly changing, and employees need lifelong learning. With a strong history in manufacturing and easy ways to find custom solutions to upskill employees, Marion offers rich soil to grow your company.

“OhioMeansJobs and our partners are ready to help you find and train your workforce. We work to ensure that our employers can source the right talent, with the right skills, at the right time,” said Roxanne Somerlot, Director of Marion County Job & Family Services.

Marion also offers many business facilities, greenfield sites, affordable housing, low traffic, and easy access to the country via highways and the dual rail industrial park. Find more details at marioncando.com.

“Whatever your needs, the Marion community will work together to meet them,” said Marion CANDO’s Comstock.

Educating Workforce In The Western NY Wilds

Few regions can compare to the Western NY Wilds’ excellence in higher education. Here, students have excellent access to three nationally ranked colleges and universities, NCAA Division III Athletics, and extensive and passionate alumni networks, all within a safe, rural setting.

For businesses and companies, faced with the challenge of identifying, hiring, and retaining a well-educated workforce, Allegany County’s institutions of higher education—Alfred State College, Alfred University, and Houghton College—actively participate in partnerships to meet their hiring needs.

In this rural setting, considered one of the area’s best assets for attracting and retaining talent, employers benefit from uniquely intimate and productive relationships with college administrators and government officials—all sharing the vision for growth and development in the fertile business environment that is the Western NY Wilds.

Look no further than SUNY Alfred State College for the highest quality training in welding, manufacturing, the building trades, robotics, engineering, information technology, and beyond—from the Associates degree level through Bachelor’s degree. Alfred State provides a career-focused education, featuring 80 dynamic majors across two Allegany County campuses.

In October 2021, the New York State Governor’s Office announced that Ljunstrom Arvos of Wellsville had been awarded part of the 816-mega-watt Empire Wind and Sunrise Wind project, a $200 million investment that will create an estimated 100 jobs in Allegany County in the production of an important part of off-shore wind technology. To meet this ambitious hiring challenge, this project also marked the beginning of yet another partnership between the employer and Alfred State College, who will act as the primary source for educating talent in the appropriate and highly specialized skills required for this work. This announcement came on the heels of a $1.4 million workforce development WORC grant for Alfred State College through the U.S. Department of Labor and the Appalachian Regional Commission, to support increased hiring demand.

Alfred University is synonymous with the highest quality education in advanced ceramics technology, glass, and renewables through Bachelor to Doctoral degrees. The university’s Center for Advanced Ceramic Technology (CACT) is an incredible resource for highly specialized employers within New York State’s Advanced Ceramics sector. The CACT develops a pipeline of talent through education in ceramics, glass, renewables, and materials science. They provide hands-on experiential training with research and manufacturing-grade equipment and can lower employers’ costs through subsidized student internships.

Established companies and start-ups in advanced ceramics will encounter a robust environment for research and development, readily accessible academic research and support, regional corporate partners, and an attractive community that is both intellectually vibrant, artistically rich, and offers access to the wildly beautiful outdoors while remaining proximate to the major cities of the northeast, in the Western NY Wilds.

LED FastStart Pairs With Higher Education For Sustained Workforce Success

For 12 consecutive years, LED FastStart has been ranked the top workforce recruiting and training program in the U.S. by Business Facilities. That recognition comes as LED FastStart continues to raise the workforce development bar by combining a culture of innovation with a focus on three pillars: recruiting, training, and sustaining.

To continue building a sustained workforce pipeline, LED FastStart develops partnerships with Louisiana’s higher education system. The result is an unparalleled suite of innovative and acclaimed training programs that equip thousands of soon-to-be college graduates every year with specialized skills, certifications and hands-on experiences for productive and rewarding careers.

LED FastStart Higher Education
With development assistance from LED FastStart, Nunez Community College’s Aerospace Manufacturing Technology Program gives students the opportunity to work with Boeing and NASA on the development of the Space Launch System that will power the Artemis moon missions. (Photo: Louisiana Economic Development)

No other state workforce development program comes close to matching the number, quality and diversity of educational partnerships. FastStart remains engaged for the long term.

Southern University at Shreveport: Aviation. Shreveport’s campus of Southern University, an HBCU, continues to build on its Airframe and Powerplant Maintenance program taught at the Shreveport Downtown Airport. The program received $125,000 from FastStart to upgrade and add classroom space.

Grambling State University: Computer Science and Cybersecurity. LED FastStart and Grambling, an HBCU in Northeast Louisiana, paired to establish the university’s Friends of Technology Advisory Board to oversee the implementation of digital technology on campus. The board and LED FastStart also established relationships with leading technology employers from the state, including CGI, DXC Technology, GDIT, IBM, Lumen Technologies (formerly CenturyLink) and Microsoft. The board includes 13 top executives from organizations including NASA and Salesforce.

Nunez Community College: Aerospace with NASA and Boeing. The next mission to the moon is called Artemis, and it starts at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans where Nunez Community College students are helping build the largest rockets ever built in partnership with Boeing. To expand the steady flow of qualified Louisiana candidates, the LED FastStart team traveled to other schools with aerospace programs, assessing the equipment, facilities, and curriculum a successful program would require. Their findings set the stage for the Aerospace Manufacturing Technology Program at Nunez.

Multiple institutions: Tech/Cyber with DXC and GDIT. LED FastStart continues to deliver comprehensive workforce solutions to DXC Technologies, an information technology services and consulting company, and GDIT, an anchor for Louisiana’s I-20 cyber corridor. For DXC, FastStart manages a $25 million higher education initiative that pairs the company directly with state higher ed institutions. Tech-driven programs such as Southeastern’s Workforce Talent Initiative and LSU’s Microcredits program were all funded through the DXC partnership.

GDIT, which has more than 1,000 employees working at its centers for integrated technology, cyber innovation and customer engagement, works with Fast-Start to via talent development programs at Bossier Parish Community College, Grambling State University, Louisiana Tech, LSU Shreveport, Southern University Shreveport, and Northwestern State.

Louisiana Community and Technical College System: Manufacturing. LED FastStart enhanced the state’s aero-space, automotive and advanced man-ufacturing industries by installing new Haas 5-Axis CNC machining centers and training curriculum at all 12 colleges of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS)—a first in the U.S.

University of Louisiana at Lafayette: Information Technology with CGI. Powered by the expertise of the LED FastStart team, the Lafayette Engagement and Research Network (LEaRN) Collaborative is a result of a partnership between the Lafayette Consolidated Government (LCG), the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and CGI. LEaRN is focused on understanding how smart community initiatives can be leveraged to help local governments better manage resources, improve planning, and improve citizens’ quality of life.