Business partnerships with community colleges help funnel workers into better jobs

The Assisting Community Colleges in Educating Skilled Students to Careers Act — or ACCESS to Careers Act — is designed to increase the number of students who earn these types of credentials and the number of colleges meeting the needs of local employers. It could provide states with up to $2.5 million a year for up to four years to develop policies around this type of workforce training and provide community colleges with grants of up to $1.5 million each to carry out the programs. Its sponsors, Sens. Todd Young, a Republican from Indiana, and Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia, are both staunch advocates of short-term workforce training programs; they reintroduced the bill in May, after a February 2020 version languished without success.

The combination of students changing the way they consume postsecondary education and businesses desperate for skilled employees has led to a new wave of strategic business partnerships — with or without the proposed federal grants.Rachel Vilsack, a senior fellow at the National Skills Coalition, said she’s seen an increase in partnerships that allow businesses to signal their needs and work directly with community colleges to meet them. The increase has also been sped up by the pandemic, she said.

“These partnerships have become the real-time data source that are creating that skilled pipeline and pathway of workers to make this economic recovery better and faster and more inclusive,” Vilsack said.

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