Partnerships between Business and Adult Education Providers

Partnerships between Business and Adult Education Providers

Carsten Schmidtke (University of Arkansas, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2181-7.ch029
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The purpose of this chapter is to discuss the benefits and challenges of partnerships between adult education providers and businesses. The chapter addresses reasons for engaging in partnerships, the typical partners involved, types of partnerships, partnership activities, and the process of building a partnership. The theory is then used to analyze a specific case, the partnership between a technical college and an industrial park. Based on that case, lessons learned and future trends in educational partnerships as they relate to economic development and America’s ability to remain globally competitive are discussed.
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In 2010, President Barack Obama launched the “Skills for America’s Future” campaign, designed to harness the cooperative powers of businesses and community colleges to improve adult workforce training and education. A White House report states the President’s attitude on adult education and worker training as follows: “President Obama believes that nations that out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow” (Department of Commerce & Executive Office, 2011, n.p.).

Indeed, as the United States slowly recovers from the “Great Recession” that began in 2007, more high-skill jobs must be created, and more workers must be trained for those jobs if economic recovery and growth are to be sustained (Gordon, 2009). Simultaneously, the United States faces global challenges that make it imperative to reconsider the role of business and industry in adult workforce preparation. Worker capabilities must be enhanced in ways never done before, as stated by Gordon (2009):

Slower workforce growth is increasing pressure for all labor force segments to more fully participate in workforce recruitment. Technological advances will enable an increase in nontraditional work arrangements. … The business community can avoid this talent catastrophe by finally getting serious about the overhaul of the entire education-to-employment system. This business role will be critical in helping labor markets adjust to the escalating national and global talent requirements (p. 100).

Partnerships between adult education providers like community colleges on the one hand and business and industry on the other are frequently touted as an appropriate and effective response to the challenges of globalization in that they help American businesses to maintain their competitiveness in an increasingly smaller world (Soares, 2010). Involving business and industry in adult education and training is not a new concept. Hodnett (1955) already stated it clearly: “The need for better understanding through closer industry-college relations is a matter of national importance” (p. 12). He complained that a lack of interaction led to missing out on all the benefits such relations could provide. Lipsky (1973) also argued that employer involvement was the key ingredient in successful workforce training, and Hull and Hinckley (2007) lamented that such involvement had been sadly lacking. The ultimate consensus is that employers not only must but also should want to participate more actively in workforce training because of the many benefits that can be realized.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Community Organization: Local public or private non-profit organization funded by federal or state moneys to foster local economic development and reduce poverty.

Accreditation: A process leading to the certification of competency as measured by current standards. Colleges in the United States, for example, are members of private institutions that have set a standard for quality services and operations and carry out the accrediting function.

Development: An activity within organizations to improve the performance of workers.

Business-Education Partnership: Cooperation between a public or private education provider and a business or group of businesses with the goal to create innovative programs that help resolve or prevent labor market shortages.

Accountability: In education, the assumption of responsibility for the implementation, administration, and outcomes of educational programs. It includes the obligation to report and justify, for example, the use of funds or the graduation rates of students. Education providers tend to be accountable to state and federal oversight entities; in partnerships, the partners are accountable to one another that the rules of the partnership were followed by all.

Funders: Public or private bodies that offer grants to support educational initiatives.

Lifelong Learning: The continuous formal and informal skill and knowledge improvement throughout an adult’s life. Although often focused on skills needed for employment, the term presumes that adults never stop learning, be it for occupational or private purposes.

Training: The process of acquiring knowledge, skills, and attitudes related to practical competencies applicable directly on the job.

High-Skilled Worker: Workers with advanced technical, academic, and interpersonal skills. Usually includes problem-solving, leadership, teamwork, systems improvement, etc.

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