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Embedded in the mission of community colleges is the intent to provide career development, work force training and continuing education for the communities colleges serve. For many years, community colleges have engaged various strategies to partner with local businesses and organizations toward their economic advancement and growth, embracing the belief that strong corporate and civic communities enhance the success of the community college.

When considering the cyclical nature of community college enrollments (in depressed economic times the academic programs grow, but in positive economic times traditional enrollments remain static or decline), it was important to expand the streams of revenue that took this unique phenomenon into account. Thus, in the spirit of fully embracing the work force training element of our mission, we, at Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio, committed to enlarging our capacity to serve business and industry and increasing our share of training funds available during prosperous times. We believed we could take that concept to the next level by diversifying revenue streams for the college and connecting the cyclical relationship between academic enrollment and training, based on national economic trends.

An evaluation of local business needs by surveys and focus groups through our Chamber of Commerce revealed that if we were to maximize our services to the companies headquartered in Cuyahoga County, then we needed to provide them with locations comparable to their workplaces. Likewise, if we were to become the “official” training arm for small and medium-sized local businesses, then we must reflect the places of delivery similar to their previous providers and have a “business-like curb appeal.” We at Cuyahoga Community College agreed that the creation of new campus sites that delivered corporate training and professional development across our county would enhance our current campus-based work force training greatly.

Following three years of planning and development, Corporate College was established in 2003, to accelerate economic growth in Northeast Ohio. Corporate College was designed to fulfill the business community’s need for an advanced training delivery system, a vital component of the region’s strategically coordinated economic development agenda. Through extensive partnership arrangements with these businesses, Corporate College would be able to provide “justin- time” training — when and where it is needed by regional businesses.

The two facilities we developed, which are centrally located to the more than 120,000 businesses and organizations located within the greater Cleveland metropolitan area, feature state-of-the-art conference and meeting space with the ability to host training functions and off-site company meetings and events to accommodate the varying needs of small businesses, Fortune 500 companies, and organizations from all sectors.

Corporate College is a professional development division of Cuyahoga Community College. While our Workforce Solutions programs prepare students for entry-level employment and provide incumbent workers with the skills necessary to advance within current or closely related career paths, Corporate College is focused on corporate training. Its mission is to foster innovation, promote job creation and retention, train leaders and increase productivity and profitability. Corporate College is not ruled by syllabi and theory, but by customer demand and practice-driven content. Like any training entity, Corporate College succeeds only when satisfied customers return.

Programs include leadership and professional development training, quality processes and lean business principles, small business coaching, information technology, project management and green/sustainable construction management. Six years after its inception, Corporate College is recognized throughout Northeast Ohio and beyond as a leader in customized corporate training programs. Clients include thousands of residents, hundreds of small businesses and major organizations of all kinds.

During this challenging economy, there will be successes and failures. However, for individuals and organizations that become even more entrepreneurial, there will be rewards. This will require an investment in training to meet the needs of the skills required in the new economy. The current climate has served, locally, as a wake-up call, and individuals and companies are turning to Corporate College to receive the training and knowledge to start a small business, become re-employed, or increase value and job security at a company or organization. Professionals are building additional skills sets in information technology, green/sustainable construction, and other areas to ensure they possess the skills that are in demand.

Valuing the “community” in our name, Cuyahoga Community College realizes the importance of connecting with its communities, and the Corporate College provides us with yet another opportunity to serve. Blazing new trails to learning through career and professional development will be but one of the evolving strategies for adding vision to our mission.

— Dr. Jerry Sue Thornton is president of Cuyahoga Community College and Dr. Douglas M. Brattebo is president of Corporate College, a division of Cuyahoga Community College. The forum is sponsored in partnership with the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) at The University of Texas at Austin.

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