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Below are profiles of the five community colleges named finalists for the American Association of Community Colleges' inaugural Awards of Excellence in the category of community college/corporate partnership. The colleges include:
The winner will be named April 23 at the annual AACC convention.
Richland Community College (Illinois)
Richland Community College (RCC) is engaged in a major global demonstration project that is helping the United States remain competitive in the global clean energy economy. But the college is not doing it alone. It’s the result of a powerful partnership with Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM), Schlumberger Carbon Services, University of Illinois-Illinois State Geological Survey and the U.S. Department of Energy-National Energy Technology Laboratory.
The partnership came together as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Illinois-Industry Carbon Capture and Storage project—a $207-million collaboration designed to capture and store more than 2.5-million metric tons of carbon dioxide over three years.
For its part, RCC facilitated educational and outreach activities for students and professionals in the community. The National Sequestration Education Center was constructed on RCC’s campus as an education and training facility, and the world’s first carbon capture and storage (CCS) associate degrees were developed with expertise from all partners.
“This has enabled Decatur to be recognized as a global leader in the emerging carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) industry,” said RCC President Gayle Saunders.
CCS education has been delivered to more than 22,000 people since 2011. The project has resulted in 900 domestic jobs, including 250 local jobs. The local economic impact is estimated to be more than $30 million.
More important, the project has transitioned research to a commercial demonstration, advancing national and global practices and policy regarding CCUS.
“The collaborative partnerships demonstrated with this project illuminate the practical value of community colleges and, certainly, Richland Community College,” said Scott McDonald, director of biofuels development at ADM.
Northeast State Community College (Tennessee)
When it comes to preparing the next generation of advanced manufacturing workers, Northeast State Community College and Eastman Chemical Co. stand shoulder to shoulder. These partners are providing the region’s citizens with opportunities that lead to better jobs, better pay and a better way of life.
Northeast State and Eastman partnered to develop several degree programs—machine technology, metal fabrication and welding, electromechanical technology and chemical process operations—that give students access to specially designed curriculum, state-of-the-art instruction and training for the 21st-century workforce. In turn, the collaboration gives Eastman co-ops and trainees that have gone on to become full-time employees.
“Providing access to education and training opportunities is vital to a skilled workforce and regional economic development potential,” said J. Parker Smith, vice president and general manager of worldwide operations support and global quality at Eastman.
Access to those opportunities expanded in 2008, when Eastman played a vital role in the establishment of the college’s Workforce Development Scholarship. More than 380 students have been awarded scholarships totaling $685,000.
Eastman was heavily involved in the development and construction of the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing, a 26,000-square-foot facility that provides industries with customized training for their employees. It’s also a space where middle and high school students can look into future careers in advanced manufacturing through camps and class projects. The center enrolls more than 400 students.
“Eastman always answers the call and provides expertise and resources to improve the education and training of the region’s citizens,” said Northeast State President Janice Gilliam.
Northeast Community College (Nebraska)
At the Vulcraft/Nucor Detailing Center (NDC) in Norfolk, Neb., 60 percent of the employees have one thing in common: they are graduates of Northeast Community College.
When Nucor, the largest steel and steel products company in the nation, introduced the detailing center to the region in 2005, Northeast quickly responded by committing to double enrollment in the program to prepare students for NDC careers.
At the time, NDC had seven employees. The company saw the opportunity to make Northeast the primary recruiting ground for their drafting professionals.
Working together, more employment opportunities in the community have grown. NDC now has 70 employees.
“We know we can expect a high level of technical knowledge, work ethic and critical-thinking skills from graduates of the drafting program,” said Cindy Morrow, NDC manager and a Northeast alumna.
Northeast drafting enrollments increased from an average of 31 to a high of 103 students. To meet the demands of growing enrollment, NDC supported the program to help it expand, including providing a faculty stipend for drafting instructors.
The relationship continues to bloom. Curriculum is continually upgraded to meet changing industry needs. NDC and Northeast also co-created NuView, a talent pipeline introducing high school students to drafting careers. Nucor staff members remain drafting program advisors and host annual career fairs.
“The ongoing relationship between Northeast and Nucor is a classic example of how industry and education works together to benefit students and the public good,” said Northeast President Michael Chipps.
Indian River State College (Florida)
In a region where unemployment remains at about 10 percent, giving residents a chance to land secure, high-paying careers in a high-demand field is a big win for the community. A dynamic partnership between Indian River State College (IRSC), Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) has made that a reality for many IRSC graduates.
With the nuclear industry experiencing a critical energy skilled-worker shortage, FPL turned to IRSC to help build a pipeline of highly trained workers. Along with IBEW, they developed the Power Plant Technology Institute to build the skills of the current workforce and to train the future nuclear energy workforce.
Students are provided hands-on training for careers in the maintenance and operation of power plant systems, with curriculum and subject matter experts supplied by FPL and IBEW. FPL also provides paid summer internships at its St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant.
“The key to the success of the IRSC partnership with FPL and IBEW is the shared responsibilities of all the partners,” said IRSC President Edwin Massey.
This industry-driven program has a retention rate of 95 percent. About 90 percent of its graduates have found employment in the nuclear industry, with salaries averaging $55,000. To date, 99 graduates have been hired or promoted by FPL.
The partnership has been nationally recognized with awards and grants for “consistently contributing to the mission of the college by supporting the development of a well-trained workforce and the creation of good jobs,” Massey said.
Harper College (Illinois)
For 25 years, Harper College and Motorola Solutions have enjoyed a partnership that leverages talent and resources to advance the missions of both organizations.
“The partnership has contributed to the economic prosperity of the community and, most importantly, enhanced the learning excellence of students,” said Greg Brown, chairman and CEO of Motorola Solutions.
Through the partnership, the college has provided customized training for Motorola Solutions’ professionals in computer networking. Harper also has developed and delivered a customized version of Integrity Selling to Motorola Solutions employees in the United States, London, Beijing, Singapore, Israel and Brazil.
In turn, Motorola Solutions has supported Harper’s student success agenda through the company’s involvement with the Choice Scholars Institute. The institute is a summer bridge program for students who aren’t quite ready for college-level coursework. Participants receive encouragement from Motorola Solutions employees to pursue careers in STEM fields.
“Students were enthralled as they learned how to prepare themselves for future STEM careers from Motorola Solutions’ professionals,” said Kenneth Ender, president of Harper College.
The company also funds scholarships for top-performing students.
The program is making a difference. Students who complete it enroll full-time and fulfill 80 percent of their courses successfully. Most of them are placed in college-level English and math courses.
The partnership doesn’t end there. Brown is an advocate for Harper and for community colleges nationally. He often speaks out about the importance of postsecondary credentials, and the vital role community colleges play in gaining job-readiness skills.
While addressing the college’s board of trustees and educational foundation, Brown said, “I’m a believer that the way we solve problems is local up, not federal and macro down. At the end of the day, we need to lock arms locally.”
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