Effective Employer Engagement Strategies

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Across the nation, community colleges have deepened their engagement with thousands of employers through TAACCCT grant projects. TAACCCT provided seed funding that developed or redesigned nearly 2,700 industry-aligned programs of study to equip adults with skills that lead to family-supporting jobs.

A USDOL TAACCCT framework, shown below, presents the degree of employer engagement in college initiatives along a spectrum of partnership activity, with employer roles ranging from less to more active. The series of examples below show how TAACCCT grants helped to deepen employer engagement at all levels of program design and implementation, with employer partners taking on a variety of roles – from advising to strategic implementation. The employer relationships forged and deepened through TAACCCT have the potential to continue reaping dividends into the future.

Deepening Employer Engagement. From Advisory Roles to Strategic Partnerships: Advisory Partners - Many community colleges have employer advisory councils that meet periodically to review curriculum content. Individual colleges adapt curricula to the skill requirements of individual employers. Hands on Partners - Employers work closely with faculty to develop curriculum in response to skill profiles for highdemand jobs. Employers offer hands-on, work-based learning opportunities, and industry staff serve as instructors Strategic Partners - Community colleges work collaboratively with multiple employers across an industry sector to design career pathway programs with stackable credentials. Employers may cover tuition; make hiring commitments; contribute equipment, in-kind, or financial resources; or establish Registered Apprenticeships.

Employer Engagement Project Showcase: Deepening Employer Engagement

As part of the U.S. Department of Labor’s TAACCCT initiative, grantees were required to develop or strengthen relationships with local employers to ensure workforce development programs focus was on job-driven skills and knowledge. The TAACCCT grantees selected for this showcase represent different employer engagement strategies across different industry sectors and can be useful examples for others to adopt and adapt for their own projects. Many of these projects created “toolkits” containing templates, planning tools, and guidelines for supporting employer engagement. The resources highlighted in this showcase are FREE to download, reuse, and revise to serve the needs of education or industry.


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Key Lessons Learned:

While each of the examples take place in a different local context, there are some common themes that emerged:

  • Sector-based strategies work: By focusing on a specific sector/s, community colleges are able to maximize limited time and resources to tailor their programming to meet the specific needs of their local industries. In doing so, students are then better equipped with in-demand skills relevant to the local labor market, helping them to enter or re-enter the workforce. At the same time, there are efficiencies gained from addressing common skills that employers need, helping the U.S. employers better compete in the global marketplace.
  • Consortia model attracts a larger group of employers: The advantage of working in a consortia model is the ability to attract a critical mass of employers. This “one-stop shop” method enables industry to meet with multiple stakeholders at one time, creating time and resource efficiencies compared to meeting with individual community colleges and partner organizations. Another advantage of the consortia model is that lessons that work can be quickly scaled up across an entire network, catalyzing systems change.
  • Engage employers early and often: Consortia that engaged with employers early and often benefited from stronger buy-in from industry. Often times, stronger buy-in from employers translated into financial and work-based learning resources. In several of the above case studies, employers offered hands-on training, and even Registered Apprenticeships, so that students would have the opportunity to directly apply their classroom learning in a workplace environment. In some cases, the students were earning a paycheck even as they were in school.