Changing Priorities…New Collaboration

Priorities are changing in higher education, government and business.  This week, U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis announced, “More than $500 million in grant money has been allocated to approximately 300 community colleges and universities in the United States of America for job training.”  This grant reflects a “needed shift in priorities in community colleges,” said Solis.  According to the Los Angeles Times, Sept. 22, 2012, article, the grants are designed to promote skills development and employment opportunities among students.  Why?  Many students are graduating from college and cannot get a job.  Plus, businesses are not finding qualified individuals for certain jobs.  So, the government is trying to train people for these jobs.  This is the second installment of the four-year, $2-billion initiative, according to a Department of Labor statement.  The connection between the schools and business leaders will enhance the access students have to the skills and resources needed to compete in the job market.

“That’s a collaboration that hasn’t really existed. We saw some instances but not often and not regularly. In the last decade community colleges have lost sight of that,” said Solis. “We don’t just want them to get a certificate for the sake of getting a certificate. We want them to get a certificate that means something, that will put them in a good career path and land them a good job…Right now, in the United States, the priority is to provide people with the training and skills needed to fill jobs,” Solis said.

It is time for business to engage with higher education in a much different way through the recognition that students can be a significant connection to workforce development, which in turn connects to economic development.

Beyond the focus on community college, economic developers can’t afford to use the same strategies they’ve always used and expect different results. Instead, everchanging dynamics in business and the economy require creative new responses.

The International Economic Development Council’s 2012 Annual Conference, September 30 – October 3 in Houston, Texas, will address the challenges and opportunities of growing jobs and investment in today’s global economy. By energizing and empowering regional partners through shared messaging, resources, and best practices, communities small and large can reap the benefits and remain competitive.


“Secretary of Labor recommends shift in approach at community colleges” in Los Angeles Times, September 22, 2012

“Governing Higher Ed Through Balance:  Why Cultivating Collaboration is Crucial Now, More Than Ever,” by H. Kim Bottomly, President, Wellesley College, Sept. 24, 2012


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