Businesses seeking to hire recent college graduates expect a high level of expertise and skill. To meet workforce demand and increase job opportunities, partnerships between community colleges and employers are essential, yet these collaborations can fall short.

In a recent Harvard Business School study, “The Partnership Imperative: Community Colleges, Employers, and America’s Chronic Skills Gap,” 80 percent of educators surveyed agreed with the statement “My college is producing the work-ready graduates that employers need,” while just 62 percent of employers affirmed that statement.

Harvard researchers partnered with the American Association of Community Colleges for the study and surveyed community colleges across the country as well as businesses of various sizes, industries, and regions. 

Twenty-eight percent of employers gave themselves an A grade on their level of collaboration with community colleges, compared to 7 percent of educators.

When it comes to students securing jobs following graduation, educators reported that 11 percent of local employers set hiring targets, and 10 percent offered job guarantees to students who completed a particular program. 

The report provides solutions that address the disparate perceptions between employers and their community college partners to foster better hiring results.

First, to help students graduate with stronger skill sets, community colleges and employers can co-create programs and develop curricula, and they can design classroom projects offering real-world experiences that meet industry needs.

Also, colleges and employers can build collaborations that directly result in jobs by creating hiring commitments, dedicating staff time toward strengthening school and employer relationships, and redesigning processes for hiring community college graduates. 

Finally, the report recommends that schools and employers make decisions based on current trends and statistics. To help in that endeavor, local data on talent supply and demand should be collected and shared so that collaborative strategies that address these issues can be implemented.

This article was published in our March 2023 issue.