[tweetmeme]Well, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg went to Harvard and look where they are now — founders of Microsoft and Facebook. But wait a minute. Didn’t they drop out before graduation?
Both were computer nerds but for sure Harvard didn’t teach Zuckerberg how to build a Facebook community of 500 million people across the globe. Harvard is a fine university and many of their graduates have gone on to unbridled success in business, the government and the arts.
Community Colleges Beckon
But Harvard and other Ivy’s aren’t the answer for everybody. What our educational system needs now are different tracks for different folks. Only one-third of high school graduates attend college and, of those, half drop out before finishing. So where is the next generation going to acquire the skills to succeed in an increasing technological society?
The answer for many is community colleges. The enrollment of these unsung institutions is 8 million and growing. They are so important to the future of our country that the administration held a White House Summit on Community Colleges in early October. A paper they issued touted these advantages of two-year institutions:
- Affordable tuition
- Open admission policies
- Flexible course schedules
- Convenient locations
Most important, in my view, community colleges are retraining older students to build new skills for an increasingly technological society. It’s exciting that these colleges are working with businesses, labor and government to create tailored programs in nursing, health information technology, advanced manufacturing, and green jobs.
Industry-Community College Partnerships
Many CEOs and other high-achievers attended a community college. One is William Green, who is chairman and CEO of Accenture, the world’s largest management consulting firm with approximately 150,000 employees in 49 countries.
Mr. Green, the son of a plumber, started his academic career at Dean College, a two-year school in St. Franklin, Mass. Now he and his company are giving back. In 2007, Accenture launched the annual Accenture Junior and Community College Scholarship for students transitioning from junior and community colleges to four-year institutions to continue their education.
10,000 Small Businesses
In an initiative called “10,000 Small Businesses,” the Goldman Sachs Foundation is unlocking the growth and job-creation potential of 10,000 small businesses across the United States through greater access to education, mentors and financial capital.
In a pilot program at LaGuardia Community College in New York, supported by the Foundation, local business owners can learn new skills. Rosalie Safier, whose family owns National Van Equipment, received counseling and learned the art of negotiation, mastered Microsoft Excel, and developed a business plan for growth.
Skills for America’s Future
At the White House Conference, the administration launched a “Skills for America’s Future” as an industry-led initiative to dramatically improve work force training partnerships with community colleges, The Gap said it would expand community college partnerships in seven metro areas, including in-store job shadowing, interview and leadership training, and scholarships. Other participating employers are Accenture, McDonald’s, United Technologies and Pacific Gas and Electric.
Collaborating with community colleges is good corporate PR. But more importantly, these companies are ensuring that they will have the trained employees that are essential for their future growth.
About the Author: Jeannette Paladino is a seasoned communications pro helping companies to engage their customers on social media, and to leverage their employees as brand ambassadors for their products and services. Visit her at Write Speak Sell. This post was written for the Blogging for Education Contest.