from Inquiry, Volume 6, Number 1, Spring 2001
© Copyright 2001 Virginia Community College System
Return to Volume 6, Number 1
The entrepreneurial college blends workforce development, economic development, and community development.
Community colleges, for many reasons, are moving to the forefront of workforce and economic development due primarily to their location at the grass-roots level in their service regions. Today’s community colleges offer far more than the traditional vocational and general education programs of the recent past, yet many still need to adopt a more market-driven approach to workforce and economic development programming.
Since the beginnings of the community college in the United States, the function of these colleges has incurred little change in focus: degree granting, vocational and technical training, and economic development. However, content of programs has undergone redirection with a new emphasis on workforce, economic, and community development in addition to traditional degree and certificate offerings.
Community colleges are bridging the gap between existing workplace skills and employer-required skills. For example, by offering programs on a contractual basis for public and private employers, they are becoming the primary providers of workforce training.
Employers invest nearly $30 billion annually in employee training. Community colleges can provide training more cost effectively than many other public and private sector organizations because most have the capacity to provide technical training already or can develop it at a lower cost (Hirshberg, 1991). These colleges offer a great value to businesses since most of their credit and noncredit offerings cost 10 to 20% less than comparable programs offered through the private sector. According to Cohen (1995), community-college instruction costs about one-half that of four-year colleges.
Entrepreneurial Community College
By its flexible nature, the entrepreneurial college would not simply respond to needs but would create conditions that demand its services (Grubb, 1997). It would be nontraditional in its offerings, and for the most part these offerings would be noncredit. It would rely on community-based programming (C-BP), whereby a coalition of interested stakeholders are formed and a cooperative process, or collaborative process, involving a series of sequential steps to be coordinated by the leader (the community college) in identifying community needs is undertaken. These steps are as follows (Holub, 1996):
· The college's vision, mission, philosophy, and goals need to be critically examined, or revisited, to assure compatibility with community-based programming;
· Environmental scanning needs to be undertaken, carefully noting opportunities and threats in the economic, social, political, technological, and ecological environments;
· Identified opportunities and threats need to be prioritized by all stakeholders involved in the collaboration process;
· Stakeholders impacted by the results of the scanning process need to be identified (those impacted by the factors and those with a vested interest in the resolution);
· The community college needs to take the leadership role in being the catalyst for the coalition of stakeholders;
· Follow-up by coalition members to their respective constituents is necessary to keep communications flowing.
It is this collaboration of the community citizenry, leaders, community-based organizations, business and industry representatives, and the community college that is the foundation of C-BP. In short, the entrepreneurial college is a partner in bettering the local community.
There are three nontraditional activities found in the entrepreneurial college: workforce development, economic development and community development. As with the traditional college, there would be no clear-cut boundaries between the three and overlapping would exist between them, even into the parent college's more traditional college arena.
Workforce development requires a variety of educational and training programs. The first area would consist of training employees at particular organizations or contract services. The employer is the customer, not the students. It is the employer that designs the general course-content parameters. These courses can be credit or noncredit. With contract training, colleges would provide a critical economic and workforce development tool and gain additional revenue as well (Hirshberg, 1991).
Another type of contract
work envisioned is a cooperative education program where classroom learning and
practical, paid, on-the-job experience are combined to benefit both the
employer and the student. This approach
would be beneficial in retraining and developing new skills. For example, Hirshberg
(1991) notes how Mitre Corporation of McLean,
Virginia, has teamed with Northern Virginia Community College in such a
cooperative educational program. This is
an excellent model of collaboration between the needs of the business community
and a community college satisfying those needs.
Center (SBDC) concept, which is a federally funded program designed to provide free consultative services to small businesses. At each of North Carolina’s 58 community colleges, free counseling and business-related seminars are offered.
There are other
initiatives working within NCCCS.
Examples include Worker Training Tax Credit program, Pathways to
Employment (working with welfare reform initiatives), and JobLink
(a one-stop career center at locations across the state). Such programs show additional efforts by
NCCCS in its economic and workforce development programs.
The mission of the
Virginia Community College System (VCCS) is to provide all individuals in the
Commonwealth a continuing opportunity for the development and extension of
their skills and knowledge. This working
mission provides the direction for the VCCS in providing top-quality education
and training programs geared towards associate's degrees, certificate programs,
occupational-training, specialized training for business and industry, and
continuing and developmental education.
Virginia Works, a VCCS
program implemented in 1994, is designed to facilitate workforce and economic
development in Virginia. Goals and
objectives of Virginia Works include:
· To improve the quality of life for citizens of Virginia by increasing the availability of high-skill, high-wage jobs;
· To attract business and industry with high-skill, high-wage jobs;
· To improve productivity, competitiveness, and profitability of existing business and industry;
· To strengthen the quality and availability of workforce services;
· To form alliances between VCCS and business, industry, government, education, and communities.
Virginia Works has
established several strategies to accomplish these goals. First, it maintains and provides a
comprehensive, up-to-date curriculum in occupational/technical programs. Secondly, Virginia Works will deliver a
quality set of workforce services needed by business and industry across
Another educational initiative in Virginia is the development of local community alliances, established to provide a full array of education, employment, and training services. These partnerships consist of every stakeholder involved with workforce and economic development. Virginia Works is the coordinator of these alliances. An example of this partnering is the Southwest Virginia Manufacturing Technology Center, an alliance established by Mountain Empire, New River, Southwest Virginia, Virginia Highlands, and Wytheville community colleges. Here participants receive customized training and retraining oriented to the specific employment skills of Southwest Virginia. Eastern Shore Community College is planning to build a multi-use structure for workforce development training through its partnering activities with business, industry, and government.
Virginia Works has established selected, specialized services to business and industry through its “Institutes of Workforce Excellence.” Unique training needs of each community college region are identified and satisfied by the local community college. For example, Lord Fairfax Community College targets training programs to the plastics, printing and publishing, food service, and machine trades. The Prince William Business Academy focuses on first-line supervisory, managerial, and work-related skills for hourly wage employees in retail, wholesale, and service sectors.
Noncredit education for workforce training in Virginia received a boost from the Joint Subcommittee studying workforce and economic development (House Document No. 85). The subcommittee’s report was the basis for its 1998 legislation. The Virginia General Assembly adopted legislation that charges the Virginia community colleges as the central coordinator of statewide workforce development: “The Virginia Community College System shall be the state agency with primary responsibility for coordinating workforce training at the postsecondary to the associate degree level" (House Document No. 85).
A second piece of
legislation created the Statewide Workforce Training Council (SWTC). Representatives from business and industry,
government, and key state education officials comprise the membership. This 23-member body is charged with serving
business and industry throughout the Commonwealth by identifying and meeting
workforce-training needs. The VCCS will
provide administrative and staff support for the SWTC.
Senator Charles Hawkins remarked “this legislation will probably have as much impact on the average Virginian as the concept of the community college when it was put into place.” The legislation provides funding for specific initiatives including funding for noncredit courses.
Funding was also generated for the Regional Competitiveness Program (RCP), an on-going local initiative designed to promote local economic development. The RCP is intended to encourage regional efforts in identifying key issues affecting economic competitiveness and to support regional, cooperative initiatives designed to address those issues.
One very active RCP is the Northern Virginia Regional Partnership. This RCP recently introduced six new initiatives to offer short-term training at local colleges and universities in technology fields, providing people with skills needed to fill some of the area's thousands of vacant high-technology jobs. The Annandale campus of Northern Virginia Community College is the site for one of these initiatives, called the Technology Retraining Internship Program (TRIP). The program, which began in January 1998, recruited nearly 25 students with non-technical, four-year college degrees, and worked with them for six months retraining them to fill computer technology positions. TRIP retrained 100 students through 1999. Funding for these courses came from the Regional Partnership.
The community college must continue a collaborative approach between the traditional college and the entrepreneurial college. This can be accomplished through sharing of faculty, eliminating the differential funding between credit and noncredit courses, establishing joint advisory committees, and integrating physical facilities (Grubb, 1997). Both colleges must share the same vision and mission for the college.
Secondly, creative and innovative funding schemes need to be developed to support these mostly noncredit programs of the entrepreneurial college. Arbitrary percentage splits are not feasible and funding from the state level needs to be based on the full-time-equivalent (FTE) formula. Entrepreneurial college programs need to be self-sustaining yet also need state-funding support in order to better serve each region's noncredit educational and training needs.
Lastly, evaluation of entrepreneurial college noncredit activities needs to be addressed. Output measurement based on enrollment is simply not enough. Again, creativity needs to be introduced into the evaluation model to properly assess outcomes from these programs. It is argued that results of an effective entrepreneurial college are measured by output: new jobs created, retraining accomplishments, and economic growth in the community.
The community college
efforts and initiatives in workforce, economic, and community development need
to adopt the market-driven approach of the entrepreneurial college. Additionally, leaders within community
colleges should adopt the entrepreneurial mindset, which includes being
innovative, creative, taking calculated risks, and providing visionary
guidance. Future successes of community
colleges in workforce and economic development will depend on the extent to
which these institutions adopt the entrepreneurial approach in order to compete
with other private and public institutions of higher education.
Cohen, A. 1995.
“Projecting the Future of Community Colleges.” ERIC Digest. Los Angeles: ERIC Clearinghouse for Community Colleges (ED
An excellent source on projecting enrollments,
demographics, economics, and public attitudes in forecasting the status of
American community colleges.
Grubb, W., Badway,
N., Bell, D. Bragg, D., Russman, M. 1997.
“Workforce, Economic and Community Development: The Changing Landscape
of the Entrepreneurial Community College.”
A Joint Publication of the League for Innovation in the Community
College, National Center for Research in Vocational education, National Council
on Occupational Education (ED 413033).
Focusing on nontraditional workforce, economic, and community development
programs, this paper delves into the characteristics of the “entrepreneurial
college.” Contrasts are made between the
traditional community college and the entrepreneurial college. The paper concludes with recommendations on
integrating the two colleges into one effort, funding areas, and the need for
collaboration in development programs.
Hirshberg, D. 1991. “The Role Of The
Community College in Economic and Workforce Development.” ERIC Digest. Los Angeles:
ERIC Clearing House for Community Colleges (ED 339443).
Hirshberg offers a detailed look at community
colleges and their efforts in economic and workforce development. She analyzes the changing nature of the
workforce, state and regional programs, contract job training, business development
practices, and other contemporary topics.
All community college activities start with developing a needs
Holub, J. 1996.
“The Role of the Rural Community College in Rural Community
Development.” ERIC Digest. Los Angeles:
ERIC Clearinghouse for Community Colleges (ED391558).
This digest focuses on the ways in which rural community colleges are
serving their surrounding communities and how community colleges need to
address changes in technology, the economy, social considerations and politics.
Jackson, J. 1996. Workforce Training and Service Needs of Virginia Businesses: A Survey for the Commonwealth Of Virginia. Unpublished doctoral thesis at George Mason University.
A survey was undertaken to determine workforce needs in Virginia. Businesses with 25 or more employees were the
subjects for the survey. Jackson also
wanted to know the quality of the workforce, availability, organizations
providing training, barriers to getting assistance, and requirements for
special technical training.
Lankard, B. 1995.
ERIC Digest No. 156. Los
Angeles: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Community Colleges (ED 383856).
Between 1983 to 1988, business/education
partnerships grew from 42,200 to 141,000.
This digest brings a new perspective of the benefits to education and
how these partnerships can benefit businesses.
“Noncredit Education for Workforce
Training in Virginia.” 1998 House Document No. 85. Report of the Joint
Subcommittee to the Governor and General Assembly of Virginia. Richmond:
Commonwealth of Virginia.
An outstanding public document detailing the workforce needs of
Virginia. This report became the basis
for legislation passed in 1998 for workforce development programs coordinated
by the Virginia Community College System.
Prager, C. 1994. “Tech Prep/Associate Degree
(TPAD) Academic Outcomes.” ERIC
Digest. Los Angeles: ERIC Clearinghouse for Community Colleges (ED
This digest provides a brief description and history of the Tech Prep
program. It calls for a revisit of the
program in terms of its academic merits.
Virginia Community College System. 1996. Training & Business Assistance Services (1995-1996) - Report Highlights. www.so.cc.va.us.
Richard L. Drury, D.A., is an Associate Professor of Management and the Assistant Division Chair for Management, Marketing, Finance and Real Estate at Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale Campus. Dr. Drury is the former Director for Small Business Programs at George Mason University, a Small Business Institute Director, and is currently pursuing promoting entrepreneurship and small-business management curricula in community colleges.