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Leveraging Partnerships to Create Impactful Short-Term Workforce Programming

Without the workforce to support them, businesses will have no choice but to leave the community. Higher ed has an imperative to give them skilled, trained workers who can fill in-demand roles through short-term programming and close collaboration.

Filling the talent gap means partnerships are nonnegotiable. Higher ed must therefore work closer with local community partners to begin creating the right programming that meets learner and employer needs. In this interview, Cait Grant discusses the importance of short-term training offerings, explains how partnerships can elevate this programming and shares best practices to start creating this programming.  

The EvoLLLution (Evo) Why is it important for institutions to focus on short-term training offerings?

Cait Grant (CG): At York County Community College, part of our mission is being a growth engine for our community. To do that, we must be responsive to our local business and industry. We do that both by offering degrees and certificates aligned with industry need, as well as through short-term trainings. Short-term trainings can be anything from a couple of hours to just under a year. These programs can fill the role of pre-hire or incumbent worker training and are built to pop up and be taken down as they’re needed.

Short-term workforce training gives an individual the opportunity to get successfully upskilled and employed more quickly. We want to fast-track the opportunity to learn and climb the socioeconomic ladder into meaningful careers.

Short-term trainings are pathways—both to careers and to additional education. A short-term training may be someone’s first experience with college. We often find that students didn’t see themselves as college material. Short-term trainings can be on- and off-ramps, which are a potentially less daunting way for someone to get the education they need for the workforce than a degree program. From there, we help them build their confidence to continue their path. Learning is lifelong. We want to ensure we have created opportunities for a student to come back and continue their learning,

Evo: What are some of the challenges that come with creating short-term offerings?

CG: If f someone comes out of a training program and their skills aren’t what industry is looking for, then we haven’t done our job. Constant communication and open dialogue between the college and industry is key.

It’s an easy trap to build a training you think will be great and leave industry out. We need to constantly check-in with each other. Short-term trainings are also an up/down model. We create programs due to high market demand, but in a few months’ time we may have to take it down because we’ll be filling those in-demand roles. Looking at local need is critical to ensuring you’re creating programming the community is after.

Evo: What are some best practices to establish strong partnerships between the institution and workforce?

CG: It’s all about communication and asking questions. That pulse check is important here to make sure we’re meeting demand. If it’s not, then how do we change? The feedback we get from industry partners is invaluable because without it we’re not going to do our jobs to the best of our abilities. We’re blessed with York County to have some really strong relationships.

Evo: What impact do strong partnerships with industry have on both learners and the institution?

CG: If we’re doing our job, then it’s directly impacting the ability for businesses to do work and for our community members to have jobs in those businesses. If our community’s businesses don’t have the workforce, they won’t stay. We need a vibrant business community and a trained workforce that supports it.

Making sure we’re doing our part requires a symbiotic relationship. Our role as a community college is integral to making sure we’re supporting the business industry and the community members who created the workforce necessary for those businesses to thrive.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

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