College of DuPage launches Project Hire-Ed

 
By Ann Rondeau
College of DuPage president
Posted8/15/2018 11:31 AM
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  • Ann Rondeau

    Ann Rondeau

College of DuPage is proud of its many partnerships with area employers in addressing workforce development needs.

Because these needs are constantly evolving, we maintain an open dialogue to give our students the knowledge and skills they need to meet workforce demands. This means we must always be adaptable and respond to growing concerns.

For example, a skills gap is hurting national and local competitiveness and impeding economic growth. A recent CNBC survey of company presidents and CFOs revealed that 46 percent believe the workforce is not developing the proper skills that employers require.

Additionally, the National Federation of Independent Business found that, as of first quarter 2017, 45 percent of small businesses were unable to find qualified applicants to fill job openings.

This is why the college created Project Hire-Ed. Our vision focuses on two elements: classroom curriculum and on-the-job skills building, much like an apprenticeship model, that could apply to jobs in both the skilled trades as well as office and professional settings.

By conferring with business leaders about what they believe is absent in the skills set of certain recent graduates and what is simply missing from our workforce, we can gauge the problem and begin to develop solutions for specific challenges facing area employers.

Project Hire-Ed is an ambitious undertaking, and one that will take time to fully evolve and implement. Linda Sands-Vankerk, who served as the vice president of human resources at College of DuPage for nine years, is now vice president of Project Hire-Ed.

With 30 years of human resources experience in both profit and not-for-profit organizations representing education, health care, manufacturing and service industries, she can provide the needed expertise to work with the varied employers found in our region.

To date, Linda has established an internal advisory committee with participants from multiple constituency groups that include faculty in career and technical education and transfer disciplines, as well as administrators and staff with expertise in business, continuing education and career services.

She and committee members continue to meet with employers to learn more about what positions they have difficulty filling, to discover where they need to build their talent pipelines, and to gain their interest in participating in Project Hire-Ed.

Linda also has met with state, local municipal and legislative leaders, as well as workforce development organizations to educate them on the initiative.

We currently are working with several employers in Addison on a pilot model. While it is still in the development stages, we look forward to sharing more once details are finalized.

Project Hire-Ed expands upon the established work by our advisory committees that provide direction and support for our academic programs.

For example, we can partner with employers to help them analyze the duties of their positions in order to determine the necessary competencies required for specific jobs. Then we can identify the curriculum that teaches these skills to students and incorporate the on-the-job skills building component as well.

The educational component also serves as a screening device for the crucial skills employers need while assessment mechanisms are reviewed to ensure skills are attained.

This brings employers and students together early in the process. Students are hired and build skills both on the job and in the classroom -- all while earning a salary and benefits. Upon graduation, students have jobs while employers not only benefit from skilled employees trained for success, but also increase the efficiency of their recruiting processes.

By developing strategies to close the skills gap, we ensure our local workforce is prepared to perform. With Project Hire-Ed, we want students to gain skills and credentials aligned with employer needs, receive on-the-job experience and get jobs without incurring much debt.

Employers fill jobs, reduce their hiring and training costs, and get a "jump start" on building employee loyalty. The entire community benefits through a worker pipeline for participating employers and potential economic growth.

Project Hire-Ed expands our commitment to employers in a new and creative way, building a bridge between hiring and education that helps employers find the right talent for their organizations.

It supports our mission for institutional advancement and, most importantly, creates a successful pathway for students into the workforce by providing them with the education and training the community needs.

It is my sincere hope that interested employees will join us in this important effort. I invite you to contact Linda Sands-Vankerk at sands-vankerkl@cod.edu and become part of Project Hire-Ed.

• Ann Rondeau is the president of the College of DuPage. Her column appears monthly in Neighbor during the school year.

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