Community Colleges Vital for Educating Future Workforce
By partnering with business and industry, community colleges are closing workforce alignment gaps and ensuring career pathways for in-demand jobs
Public community colleges are a uniquely American educational model that was designed to guarantee access to affordable, high-quality higher education for all people. In fact, nearly one-third of all undergraduate students attend a public two-year college. They are the primary educators of nursing and other healthcare professionals – among many other professions – and are vital engines in a community for highly-skilled and trained employees for in-demand careers. Public community colleges provide advanced learning to students with the fewest resources and the greatest obstacles, and often serve the most demographically and socioeconomically diverse students.
Community colleges make higher education, career training, and advanced learning accessible to all students, and provide opportunities for area residents to expand their horizons, learn new skills, and acquire valuable jobs to make a better life for themselves and their families. Evidence suggests that the presence of a college in a local community increases the likelihood of enrollment in that institution by local students. About 1 in 6 high school seniors lack a nearby college, making geographic location an important factor in determining not just where, but whether, a high school senior goes on to college.
But rather than serving as merely a springboard to a four-year institution, many community colleges have identified opportunities to serve as a conduit for filling in-demand jobs in their regions while improving the lives of community members with highly skilled educational programs. By partnering with regional business and industry groups, many campuses are creating custom or industry specific certifications and learning programs to fill workforce alignment gaps and supply a steady pipeline of skilled and trained employees.
"Community colleges are engines of diversity, equity and inclusion.” said ACCT President and CEO J. Noah Brown. “They give opportunities to all students, and they support all students throughout their education, whether they intend to attain an associate degree or certificate, intend to transfer on for a bachelor’s or higher degree, or they take one or a few courses to learn a new skill or expand their horizons.”
Advancing Manufacturing Education in Indiana
Nearly 1 in 3 jobs in the South Bend–Elkhart region is represented by the manufacturing sector. With nearly 700 manufacturing companies in Elkhart County alone, Ivy Tech Community College’s South Bend–Elkhart campus is positioned to train the next generation workforce in manufacturing, industry, and automation. Increasing enrollment in the Advanced Manufacturing Degree (ADMF) program and demand for highly skilled employees with internationally recognized credentials in advanced automation, robotics, and manufacturing have propelled the urgent need for a facility like the new Center for Advanced Manufacturing & Automation.
This state-of-the-art training facility bridges the gap between digital transformation and operational adoption in industry. The space allows Ivy Tech the flexibility over the next 10-15 years to become more future-focused, especially as Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things expands. In response to the needs of the future workforce, Ivy Tech is developing a new IIoT Advanced Manufacturing degree to complement the resources afforded by the Center for Advanced Manufacturing & Automation and professional credentials from the Smart Automation Credentialing Alliance. Additionally, Lippert Components, Inc. (LCI), the county’s largest manufacturer, is investing over $60 million in two highly automated facilities in the region, and LCI is partnering with Ivy Tech to create the curriculum and train their team members.
Much more than simply a place to house equipment, our team envisioned this space as a “lab” that provides a place for students to learn, grow, and be challenged as they develop the skills needed by future employers, securing careers that contribute to the vitality of the region’s economy and community. The Center for Advanced Manufacturing & Automation is a bridge between Ivy Tech and surrounding industry, increasing visibility of the campus as well as making visible to students their future careers.
“With the completion of the Center…we’re pursuing our dream of transforming our region from being one of the largest manufacturing hubs in the state into being the largest manufacturing hub in the country,” said David K. Balkin, Chancellor, Ivy Tech Community College South Bend - Elkhart
A Consolidated Campus for Collaboration
With community partners, GMB is transforming a former department store into a 21st century learning space and making a college education more accessible to students in the Lakeshore community of Holland. The new Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) Lakeshore Campus, will consolidate the programs from four separate leased buildings, creating synergy and collaboration across programs that are physically co-located.
Buying the former retail building gives the college future flexibility to grow in the much larger footprint – a consolidated, 50,000-square-foot campus facility – and provides opportunities for operational efficiencies and partnerships with Grand Valley State University’s Meijer campus. A consolidated campus establishes a strong community presence, truly embedding the college – and education – in a community.
Set to open in Fall 2021, the 50,000 square foot renovated GRCC Lakeshore building will include classrooms and labs for workforce development and arts and sciences, as well as multiple student services such as testing, counseling, placement, and a satellite library. The space plan is organized around the machine tool area to the north with perimeter classrooms ringing the exterior. Student support spaces and science labs act as islands within the floor plan, so that views from the main entrance focus on the machine tool lab. Enlarged corridors act as extensions of the classroom, allowing small groups to work or study before and after class while also opening into some of the classroom spaces for a larger lecture.
“This allows us to better serve our students, industry partners and gives people in the community a visible, centrally located place to connect with our college in a thriving area,” said GRCC President Bill Pink.
Interactive Automotive Technology Classrooms
The automotive program at Ivy Tech Community College’s Indianapolis campus, with the support of industry partners, is designed to be interactive and relevant to current and future industry demands. The program incorporates industry supported and recognized certifications as well as highly qualified instructors who are creating interactive student learning experiences. Due to an increase in available jobs and demand for graduates of Ivy Tech’s Automotive Technology program, the college is building a new Automotive Technology Training Center.
Currently under construction, this new facility will reinforce the state-of-the-art instruction from masters of the industry in a safe and secure environment. The design helps to foster a collaborative environment that fuels relationships between students, faculty, and partners, balanced with places for students and staff to refresh and focus to enhance students’ retention of applicable and working knowledge.
The center will feature nine labs, seven classrooms, and state-of-the-art facilities to teach students the skills needed to diagnose and service the high-tech systems found on modern vehicles. In partnership with area automotive corporations who will use the space for training purposes, the program also offers students paid cooperatives with full job placement upon graduation.
“We’re looking at the industry that we’re trying to create career paths to and working together with our partners to create inclusive facilities that prepare our students for the workforce. It’s not just about people who design higher education, it’s about finding people who understand the automotive repair industry to create a real-life world where students are going to learn and understand what’s needed for their field,” said Aaron Roberts, Executive Director of Administrative Services – Central Indiana, Ivy Tech Community College.
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