Published on 2019/07/19
The EvoLLLution | Inside College-Employer Partnerships: The Importance of Trust
Two leaders—one from a college, the other from an industry association—explain what it took to make their partnership work and create programming that responded to market trends while giving students a fast track to stable employment.

Higher education administrators, especially those at two-year institutions, understand the importance of partnering with employers to create innovative and market-responsive programming to support community development and enrich the college.

Lone Star College has established a robust partnership with the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC) that has led to a stackable credentialing model for career development for individuals in that industry, from their first job all the way up. The program—with industry certifications and designations as well as academic credentials—supports both technical and essential skill development.

In this interview, Linda Head and Brooke Polk reflect on what it takes to maintain strong postsecondary-industry partnerships over the long term.

The EvoLLLution: How do your organizations benefit from your partnership together?

Linda Head (LH):Lone Star College has gained so much from our partnership with the IADC, but the following are the top five:

  1. Our administration—from college CEO to faculty—are deeply informed in regard to what the most important Oil and Gas Upstream, manufacturing and service provider employers are looking for in their current and future workforce. Not just trends but the details – at a very specific level – technical and behavioral.
  2. Our curriculum is relevant because the faculty and workforce experts, like myself, can continuously ensure we add the right industry certifications, skills, math and competency levels.
  3. Our students are selected for interviews and don’t have to worry about getting lost in the impersonal and intimidating online interview processes of today’s large employers.
  4. Our labs have the right technical training equipment for our students to practice skills in a lab environment.
  5. Our college will soon have the state-of-the art Drilling Services Technology and Research Center to couple with our oil and gas simulation so that the community can learn more about the Upstream world and receive training for those careers.

Brooke Polk (BP): Industry-employer partnerships are a great benefit because they help address an industry-defined need in a collaborative way that benefits both industry and universities/colleges. Importantly, these kinds of partnerships foster new ways of approaching problems.

Of course, engagement from all parties is key. There must be a clear understanding of the need and a clear accepted pathway of how to get to a solution together.

Evo: What helped Lone Star stand out as an ideal partner for IADC?

BP: With any industry partner, it is crucial that industry feels their voice is heard and understood.  It is essential to keep industry at the forefront of driving program development.

Lone Star does this well through Global Advisory Councils that allow for continuous industry input and monitoring regarding development. It is very important that industry is involved in the programs developed.

Another way this is accomplished is by industry subject matter experts speaking to the students and being involved in the program. IADC also has established student chapters that strength the direct connection between students and industry.  An example of this is students were able to attend the IADC Annual Meeting event and meet key industry stakeholders and learn from people in the industry.

LH: Our honest sincerity and interest in hearing from the employers—even when we do not like what they have to tell us is a core differentiator. Our willingness to make changes and create new programs quickly, and our ability to move programs from non-credit to credit or to customized as needed for employers, also sets us apart.

In addition, Lone Star brings access to grants to help fund some of the training.

Evo: And what helped the IADC stand out as an ideal partner for Lone Star?

LH: Although the leadership at the IADC have held very high level and important careers prior to working there, they are all so darn nice and helpful! This is the first national organization that we have worked with who truly want Lone Star College to be successful and believe that if we are successful, their industry will be successful.

IADC’s relationship with their member companies was also important. They are not just members; they are professional friends with their member companies. And this is a relationship business.

Evo: Once a partnership is in place, how can both parties make sure it evolves into a successful, long-term collaboration?

LH: Honesty, collaboration and trust are essential to forging long-term partnerships. Trust is probably the most important. But also thinking of the other when there are opportunities and trying to figure out in each project and new relationship how and when to include each other.

BP: Both partners must understand the need, collaboratively develop a solution, and provide ongoing support for the collaboration to be long-term.

Lone Star staff came into industry workgroups and took the time to understand what the industry is about and what the needs are. This is the foundation to success. Collaborating on a solution ensures that the needs of all stakeholders are addressed. The ongoing support helps the initiative to grow and continuously evolve to fit the ever-changing need.

 

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Key Takeaways

  • Robust partnerships between community colleges and industry can help ensure programming is aligned and workforce development in a region is consciously and actively supported.
  • The collaborative approach to partnership—and different ways of thinking—can lead to creative problem-solving both for employers and for the institution.
  • Active two-way participation and discussion is essential to ensuring both parties within the partnership understand and can respond to one-another.