• Karen Stout Head Shot 2013
Categorized As:
Education & Talent

Built to Partner

Throughout my career in higher education, I’ve been known to boast about community colleges as being uniquely built to partner. As president of Montgomery County Community College, I’ve seen all the ways our college serves as a connector and convener among K-12 systems, 4-year colleges and employers. These connections are critical to the effectiveness of our workforce system, so I was encouraged that conversations during last year’s meetings of the World Class Education and Talent Development Strategy Team placed heavy emphasis on building a deliberate “cradle-to-career” pipeline of education and training opportunities.  


Our region is fortunate. A great deal of alignment exists across the education and training systems. What was remarkable during Strategy Team discussions, however, was the willingness of Team members to step further out of old “silos” and identify connections between organizations and efforts that have not traditionally been aligned. When the group came to focus on workforce readiness, three strategies emerged as priorities for ensuring that our region’s residents have the skills they need to compete for the jobs of the future: expanding employer-led efforts, building core competencies to prepare individuals for on-the-job training, and aligning education and training programs with regional economic opportunities. Unsurprisingly, these strategies are all grounded in intensive cross-sector coordination and program alignment.


We have a solid foundation for this type of collaboration, especially with the strong, forward-thinking community colleges in this region who are national leaders in innovative and collaborative approaches. At the regional level, we  work together through the Collegiate Consortium for Workforce and Economic Development—a partnership of Drexel University and the community colleges in Philadelphia, Delaware, Bucks, Camden and Montgomery counties.  The Consortium aims to serve as a regional “one-stop-shop” for  employers seeking education or training services for their employees, and has worked with such high-profile companies as PECO, UPS, Sunoco and Boeing.


Recently, we partnered with the members of the Collegiate Consortium to train returning veterans for new careers through a grant from the Department of Labor. As part of this collaborative effort, Montgomery County Community College created a Veteran’s Success Center to help these men and women get back on their feet quickly—and with the right skills to compete in today’s regional labor market.


At the state level, 14 community colleges across Pennsylvania are working together to train unemployed and underemployed workers (a large number of whom are living in Southeastern Pennsylvania) in high-growth industries through JobTrakPA. (Read more about these efforts in a Philadelphia Inquirer piece published earlier this week.)


It’s clear that there’s great work already happening among community colleges in our region and a significant willingness among employers, high schools and universities to collaborate for impact. We’ll need to be deliberate about leveraging this strength in new and creative ways to ensure and sustain a World Class workforce for Greater Philadelphia.