June 7, 2023
This week, Harvard University’s Project on Workforce (HPoW) released a new book published by Harvard Education Press that features Lorain County Community College (LCCC) as one of five exemplar community colleges contributing to regional economic growth and opportunity.
Through five case studies of community colleges from Mississippi to Ohio to Arizona, the book, “America’s Hidden Economic Engines: How Community Colleges Can Drive Shared Prosperity,” explores the ways in which forward-thinking community colleges are designing and implementing new solutions to both adapt to critical needs in the U.S. economy and create new pathways to opportunity for a diverse range of learners.
“We are deeply honored to be included in this important work led by one of the country’s top research teams,” said LCCC President Marcia J. Ballinger, Ph.D. “Our commitment to strengthening the local economy is at the core of who we are as an institution, and these best practices highlighted by Harvard University further amplify the vital role of community colleges as economic engines for job growth and advancing individual and family prosperity.
Lorain County Community College’s strategies to grow regional economic growth and opportunity featured in Harvard’s new book include:
- Leading a comprehensive strategic visioning process built on community engagement to understand the needs, opportunities and aspirations of the community. LCCC’s Vision 2025 strategic plan (adopted in 2019 and refreshed annually) engaged 1,500 stakeholders leading to a bold goal of “10,000 degrees of impact” where the college would prepare 10,000 more individuals with credentials needed for in-demand jobs.
- Forming long-standing, close relationships with business and industry, which informs the college’s launch of new programs and helps design innovative delivery models such as earn-and-learn programs. LCCC works with 80 regional advanced manufacturing companies to deliver degree programs in microelectronic manufacturing, which are critical to Ohio and the United States’ efforts to expand the semiconductor industry domestically.
- Emphasizing short-term training by delivering 65 Fast-Track programs aligned to in-demand jobs to support the needs of career-switching adults. The college utilizes several different funding sources to offer these programs for free.
- Launching Career by Design, a new approach to student advising that focuses on ensuring students’ education leads to careers with family-sustaining wages.
- Expanding dual enrollment programs aligned to in-demand jobs, creating early career pathways for first-generation college students.
“The institutions profiled in the book demonstrate the profound potential of community colleges as drivers of regional economic growth that serve the populations who are too often left behind by so-called ‘traditional’ higher education. But too often, two-year institutions struggle with the need to be everything to everyone — without the resources to do so effectively,” said Robert Schwartz, Senior Advisor, HPoW and co-editor of the book. “We hope the findings of the book serve as both an inspiration and a motivation to not just community college leaders seeking to accelerate regional economic growth — but also state leaders who recognize the critical importance of funding community colleges as engines of growth and prosperity.”
In addition to LCCC, the four other colleges – Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Northern Virginia Community College, Pima Community College in Arizona, and San Jacinto Community College in Texas – each serves very different learner populations and meet different local workforce needs, but have all implemented practices to both respond to the needs of their regional economy and foster new opportunities for equitable growth. Those promising practices, which are detailed in the book, include cultivating innovative and externally facing leadership teams, leaning in to attract businesses to their communities or help build and grow new ones, building flexible programs that meet workers where they are, and making career advising integral to all educational pathways, among others.
This project was started in 2021 under the leadership of Robert Schwartz and Rachel Lipson, cofounder and inaugural director of the Project on Workforce and co-editor of the book, along with support from case authors Hayley Glatter, Analisa Sorrells, Furman Haynes, Rachel Boroditsky, and Sakshee Chawla. Harvard’s Project on Workforce is a collaborative project between the Harvard Kennedy School’s Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy, the Harvard Business School Managing the Future of Work Project, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Support for this project came from a private foundation and the Capital One Foundation. Learn more about the book or order copies.