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Interconnectedness of Community Colleges and Businesses

Posted on September 2, 2022 at 11:18 AM by Monica Clark

From Emily Shields, Executive Director

I’ve met with business and industry representatives many times in the past year, and several have generously asked what challenges our Colleges are facing. I always say that our challenges are the same as their challenges. They need a skilled workforce, and we need students who are supported in being successful. If we find the students and the support, they get the workforce. This interconnectedness is why Iowa’s Community Colleges work so hard to engage their region’s business and industry at every level. Without business and industry voices and expertise in our decision-making and planning processes, we wouldn’t be able to prepare students to achieve their goals in the workforce.  

Manufacturing 4.0 

At times, industry and Community Colleges come together to address specific needs. One notable example is the recent Manufacturing 4.0 Initiative. This initiative has brought together manufacturing and Community College professionals and experts to collaborate on preparing the sector for the next wave of technology and innovation. This group has provided training to faculty, staff, and manufacturing leaders and has considered ways to improve curriculum and programming to prepare Iowa’s workforce for the future. 

A man with safety glasses is bent over a robotic arm with a controller in his hand. The text reads: $20 million in Manufacturing 4.0 Workforce Innovation Program Grants awarded to 46 companies across the state.


Career and Technical Advisory Boards 

Each Iowa Community College has Career and Technical advisory boards focusing on everything from accounting to welding. These boards include industry professionals who can help faculty with curriculum decisions and other things to help ensure programs are in line with current standards and expectations for workforce needs.  

Dairy cows are in the background. The text reads: "It's important to me that the program continues to be ea top-notch education and that it stays progressive...I encourage all NICC alumni to tell their story and to stay involved/" Justin Schaffer, NICC graduate Serving on Dairy Science Advisory Committee

Sector Partnerships 

Regional Sector Partnerships across Iowa serve to gather business and industry in a specific sector such as health care to connect and collaborate, particularly around workforce issues. These groups, led by industry and coordinated through the Iowa Department of Education, offer opportunities for shared learning and can serve as the basis for grants and other shared opportunities. Sector boards also identified the need for more clear career paths and launched a pathways mapping project that has seen great success. 

Click the map below to see where all the Sector Partnerships are located in Iowa!

A Google map of Iowa with pins showing where sector partnerships are in Iowa 

Regional Planning Partnerships 

Regional Planning Partnership Advisory Councils serve to support collaboration across high schools and Community Colleges to offer career and technical education, often through career academies. These advisory councils include educators and administrators as well as regional economic development staff and representatives from business and industry. These partnerships have seen much growth and success in recent years, especially as funding has become available to support more regional career academies.  

Intermediaries and Work-Based Learning 

The Iowa Intermediary Network seeks to connect business and education through the coordination of work-based learning activities like job shadows and internships. These networks give employers an easy and seamless way to connect directly with students to provide hands-on experience in their industry throughout the education spectrum.  

Employers and business leaders provide critical input, feedback, and collaboration with Iowa’s Community Colleges. Working together, we have the best chance to help students and businesses find success together. 

A photo of toy trucks on a desk with text over that reads: A better future for Iowa

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