• Project on Workforce Team

America’s Hidden Economic Engines: How Community Colleges Can Drive Shared Prosperity

Nine months ago, the Project on Workforce launched an initiative with two goals: first, to better understand how some community colleges prioritize their workforce mission across the institution and position themselves as key players in their region’s economic development ecosystem; and second, to help spread the lessons from these colleges to leaders in other states. Using quantitative and qualitative metrics, the Project on Workforce identified five exemplary community colleges—Pima, NOVA, Lorain, San Jacinto, and Mississippi Gulf Coast—and recruited five Harvard graduate students to develop detailed case studies documenting the internal policies and practices that enable these institutions to serve their students and their regional industry partners so effectively. We then recruited leaders from six states—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New Jersey—interested in helping their community colleges strengthen their focus on workforce development and organized a virtual convening June 28 to help leadership teams from these states learn from the lessons of the case study institutions.


Contents

  1. Convening information

  2. Making the case: How NOVA is transforming into a jobs-first hub in Northern Virginia

  3. At Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, "Everything we do is workforce training."

  4. The Community's College: How Lorain has positioned itself as a community connector in Northeast Ohio

  5. Pima Community College: Industry's economic development partner

  6. Power of active listening: San Jacinto College's key to meaningful employer partnerships


 
CONVENING

On June 28, the Project on Workforce—together with Jobs for the Future (JFF)—is inviting leaders from these five colleges along with cross-sector leadership teams from six other states—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New Jersey—to discuss how to strengthen the workforce and economic mobility mission of their community college systems. The convening will be hosted virtually and last four hours. The agenda for this event is outlined below.


To register for the event, please use this registration link.*


*This is a closed event. Please only register for the event if you have received either a Save the Date or formal invitation from the Project on Workforce.


The agenda will be as follows:


Morning Session

11:00am-12:30pm ET: A panel discussion with the leaders of the five case study colleges: Marcia Ballinger, President, Lorain County; Brenda Hellyer, Chancellor, San Jacinto; Lee Lambert, Chancellor and CEO, Pima; Anne Kress, President, Northern Virginia; Jonathan Woodward, Executive Vice-President, Mississippi Gulf Coast.


12:30-1:15pm ET: Lunch break


Afternoon Session

1:15-1:45pm ET: A presentation by Professor Joe Fuller on the results of a recent survey of community college leaders and employers.


1:45-3:00pm ET: Breakout sessions in which cross-sector leadership teams from six states –California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New Jersey–will reflect on lessons from the cases as they develop state policy proposals to incentivize their community colleges systems to prioritize their role in regional workforce and economic development.

 

CASE STUDIES

These case studies are part of a series to be published in the forthcoming book volume “America’s Hidden Economic Engines: How Community Colleges Can Drive Shared Prosperity” (Harvard Education Press, 2023) researched and produced by the Project on Workforce at Harvard University. The views expressed in these case studies are the sole responsibility of the case writers and are not meant to represent the views of the Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University, or the associated community college.


Making the case: How NOVA is transforming into a jobs-first hub in Northern Virginia

Situated in two of four of the richest counties in the country, Northern Virginia is a region blessed with large and fast-growing industries abundant with good-paying jobs. However, the wealth present in the region often obscures unequal access to opportunity and concentrated areas of poverty. Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) sits at the forefront of efforts to ensure economic opportunity is shared more broadly. To achieve this mission, NOVA has embraced a strategy to build more on-ramps into the local economy and transform itself it a jobs-first hub in Norther Virginia.


By: Furman Haynes (MBA '23)


Draft Case Study on Northern Virginia 2022
.pdf
Download PDF • 1.27MB

 

At Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, "Everything we do is workforce training."

Mississippi Gulf Coast is one of the most important players in its regional economy. Contending with a brain drain, longstanding structural inequities in its neighborhoods, and limited supply of postsecondary education and training options, the college is at the center of efforts to build more pathways into good jobs in its four-county region. To do this, the college is redesigning education in a way that focuses on providing students with valuable skills and credentials needed to power the region’s growth, regardless of their educational pathway: "Everything we do is workforce training."


By: Analisa Sorrells (MPP '23)


Draft Case Study on Mississippi Gulf Coast 2022
.pdf
Download PDF • 5.12MB

 

The Community's College: How Lorain has positioned itself as a community connector in Northeast Ohio

Lorain County Community College is, by definition, a community college. Folks across Northeast Ohio look to LCCC to earn college credits while they are in high school, complete a valuable credential before transferring to a four-year institution, and upskill after decades in the workforce. But what makes LCCC unique is that, beyond being a community college, leaders on campus have positioned the school as the community’s college.


By: Hayley Glatter (MPP '23)


Draft Case Study on Lorain 2022
.pdf
Download PDF • 769KB

 

Pima Community College: Industry's economic development partner

Over the past decade, Pima has undergone a dramatic transformation to better serve its learners, community, and employers. At the center of Pima’s strategy is a priority on providing working learners the flexibility they need to succeed. Pima has promoted the development of multiple, flexible pathways across the full spectrum of education and training, ranging from career-focused high school and adult basic education programs, micro-pathways, certificates, and degrees. On top of these efforts, Pima prioritizes being industry-facing and employer-friendly. Pima is well-positioned to build on these reforms and expand its role as a good jobs engine for the region.


By: Rachel Boroditsky (MBA '23)


Draft Case Study on Pima 2022
.pdf
Download PDF • 1.35MB

 

Power of active listening: San Jacinto College's key to meaningful employer partnerships

San Jacinto provides the critical connection point between Houston's growing population and high-demand jobs. The college’s commitment to listening to industry and soliciting proactive employer participation has prepared graduates for workforce demands. These efforts have earned the college the prestige as being known in the region for its ability to build strategic partnerships with employers, intermediary organizations, and government institutions, while balancing the success and needs of its students.


Draft Case Study on San Jacinto 2022
.pdf
Download PDF • 1.43MB


By: Sakshee Chawla (MPP '22)