Community Colleges + Businesses = Jobs

Teri McClure of UPS talks about successful community college and business partnerships. (Photo courtesy of Ivy Tech Community College)

President Obama frequently talks about the importance of educating our way to a better economy, and partnerships between community colleges and businesses are vital to getting there. That was the key message of the U.S. Department of Education’s Community College Summit at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis on Wednesday, March 23.

“These summits are an opportunity for us to ‘listen and learn’ from all of you.  These discussions will help us to make future decisions about higher ed,” said Under Secretary Martha Kanter to a standing-room-only crowd of nearly 200 educators, business executives, policymakers, philanthropists and students.

Kanter discussed President Obama’s goal of increasing the number of American college graduates from 40 percent of working adults today, to 60 percent by 2020. That goal will better prepare students for the 21st century job market, and help the U.S. regain its position as first in the world in educating its students. She said that meeting this goal will require the U.S. to turn out at least 8 million additional graduates, and at least 5 million will come from community colleges.

It’s critical we think not only about the students coming up from high school, but the two-thirds of adults who need to come back  or go to college for the first time to move into a new career.

The meeting was the third of four regional summits convened to follow on the success of the White House Summit on Community Colleges held last October, where the President launched “Skills for America’s Future,”  an initiative to improve industry partnerships with community colleges. The summits were developed to identify promising practices for improving community colleges, with the first gathering in Philadelphia focusing on adult learners and an earlier meeting in Houston highlighting transitions to 4-year institutions.  Collaboration between community colleges and the private sector was the special focus of this meeting.

The decision to have this summit in the Midwest and specifically at Ivy Tech was no accident.

“We selected the Midwest specifically because so many of the community colleges here have really stepped up to the plate,” said Kanter, noting Midwestern colleges’ “responsiveness to the 21st century needs of employers” in developing tailored programs for retraining displaced workers.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is thanked by Under Secretary Martha Kanter following his remarks at ED’s Community College Summit. (Photo courtesy of Ivy Tech Community College)

As one of the largest community college systems in the U.S. with nearly 200,000 students at 23 campuses throughout Indiana, Ivy Tech Community College has formed more than 1,200 distinct partnerships with businesses. One of those collaborations is with the Northern Indiana Public Service Company. “We were going through a period where we could not get very many applicants to pass our pre-entry aptitude tests,” said Kris Emaus, manager of training for NIPSCO, during a lunchtime panel discussion.

NIPSCO joined forces with other state utility companies facing similar challenges to form the Indiana Energy Consortium. The consortium reached out to Ivy Tech, which has established a customized curriculum to provide students with the skills they need to fill an array of positions with salaries ranging from $25,000 to $105,000.  So far, about 100 students have enrolled in the program, she said.

ED’s dialogue with community college stakeholders will continue at a San Diego summit on April 15, with a special focus on programs for military members, veterans and their families. A virtual summit is also planned for April 27. To submit your name for consideration as a summit participant in San Diego please send your name, organization, title and e-mail address to:

Julie Ewart is senior public affairs specialist for the Department of Education’s Region V office (including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin), and proud mom of three public school students.


  1. I was happy to see that in the FY2011 Budget Proposal, President Obama requests $10.6 billion in funding for the American Graduation Initiative over the next 10 years. In the National Report Card on Higher Education, by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, it states that the education level of younger Americans has declined compared to other nations. Although the US places second in the number of adults from 35-64 years in age with Associate’s degrees or higher, we place tenth when it comes to the percentage of adults from 25-34 with an Associate’s degree or higher.

    Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, who spoke at the Department of Education’s Community College Summit, stated in his 2011 State of the State Address that one of the items on his agenda is allowing students who graduate from high school in three years to apply the money that would have been spent on their fourth year of high school to their higher education costs. Indiana Senate Bill 0497, which passed the Indiana Senate and is now in the Indiana House Committee on Education, would do this. This would hopefully boost the number of college graduates in Indiana by decreasing the overall cost that students have to pay to obtain a college degree. However, this will not benefit the two-thirds of adults, mentioned in the blog post, who need to come back or go to college for the first time to move into a new career. Indiana currently ranks 43rd in the nation in the percentage of adults with a Bachelor’s Degree or higher.

  2. Dear President Obama and Vice-President Biden,

    I am a mother of 2 children, ages 11 and 14 years of age. I have found myself within the last two years re-inventing myself and trying to stabilize my family as so many other Americans and individuals around the world who have been effected by the economic situation.

    I live with my mother because of an eviction and fight to keep our personal items in the storage. I was hurt on my job in December of 2008 and I am still struggling to receive any compensation from the company. I recently applied to Chicago State University in the Education department. I am taking one class, but I have not paid for the class, I need a personal home computer and to purchase the live program which most universities are using to teach the classes. For the past, 12 months, I have received the TANF benefits which have covered the bare minimum for my family. When my son and daughter need fees and transportation to school or music and other extracurricular activities, the money goes there first. I have been given the opportunity to work for a suburban school district as an on-call substitute teacher. After 3 weeks, the position is on hold, the teachers are at work. Again, I am left searching for employment. However, I will purchase a computer and the program for school and the home, this week, when I receive my check. The children and I use the public library and computers at school, which are limited. We try to do our best.

    I am requesting support for adults, 40 and over to receive funding to further their education at the advanced level inorder to meet the needs of their family. It is very diffficult, our housing is shared with my mother, she is aged and it is also a change for her. She is really looking for her “Golden Years’, but with her health, it is also not that well.

    I would like to say, this morning, I witnessed some children at Stagg School in Chicago, harassing a homeless man with a basket of aluminum for scarpping. About 15 students, ran the man off. I was astonished, I couldn’t beleive this behavior. I circled the block and asked the patrol officer, if this were true. She indicated yes and says this happens everyday!!! What has happened to this world, this man is trying to make a living the best way he knows how. My children, do not attend this school, they go in another area. I attended this school for my grammar school education and loved Stagg along with the “Greatest Teachers”. Yes, I ask myself, “Do I really want to do this, teach?” The answer is “Yes” now, more than ever!

    Please I hope that the government can assist myself and others in funding our education to help this next generation, that seems so selfish and lost.


    Janet Lunn

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