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November 14, 2018

Just Released: New York State’s Community Colleges are Successfully Partnering with Employers

LSE_2018_New York State’s Community Colleges are Successfully Partnering with Employers

Community colleges frequently work with local employers to help shape the training of students and incumbent workers. This type of engagement has become an increasingly important strategy for community colleges to help students acquire the right skills for available jobs, and also helps local employers find and retain workers with the training they need. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York conducted a survey of community colleges in New York State with the goal of documenting the amount and types of these kinds of activities taking place. Our report, Employer Engagement by Community Colleges in New York State, summarizes the findings of our survey.

Employer engagement is a two way street. Employers have firsthand knowledge about the job skills that are in demand, both with respect to their own particular needs and in the labor market more generally. With input from local employers, community colleges can train students to develop the skills needed to fill available jobs, and help upskill employers’ incumbent workers to help them adapt to change.

Employer engagement covers a wide array of activities, ranging from employers serving on advisory boards or helping to design instructional programs, to entering into formal partnerships and contracts to train workers in specific skills for their businesses’ own current needs.

Below are some highlights from the report:

  • Employer engagement by community colleges in New York State has become the norm. The typical community college engages with more than 100 employers, spanning every major industry sector, including healthcare, manufacturing, utilities, and tourism.
  • Nearly all community colleges surveyed have employers who serve on curriculum advisory committees, come to campus for guest lectures, offer workplace visits and tours of their facilities, provide work experience and job opportunities to students, or help students prepare for the job market by participating in career fairs or mentoring. Many also work to promote the college or its programs to the local community. Although less common, it is not unusual for employers to provide financial aid to students or resources to help set up classrooms, labs, and special equipment needed for training purposes.
  • Community colleges in New York State form and build relationships with local employers in many different ways. Community colleges regularly engage with employers at networking events or target local employers by contacting them directly about potential opportunities to work together. It is also quite common for local employers to initiate contact with community colleges when their businesses have specific training needs. In addition, community colleges rely on their students, alumni, and faculty to find local employers to engage with.
  • In terms of impediments to engaging with employers, nearly all community colleges reported that they do not have enough financial resources and staff to find employers to work with. Community colleges serving the rural areas of the state commonly face the challenges of not having the information necessary to determine local labor market needs or not having enough jobs available from local employers. Furthermore, while close to 90 percent of New York’s community colleges have staff to foster employer engagement; those that do not have such staff are disproportionately located in rural areas.
  • Despite financial and staffing constraints, most community colleges in New York State plan to increase the amount of employer engagement they do over the next few years. Colleges expect to do so by both enhancing existing relationships with local employers and finding new employers to work with.

Employer engagement is widespread at New York’s community colleges. Cooperative endeavors such as the Apprenticeship Accelerator Career Training program at Onondaga Community College, the Maritime Technology program at Kingsboro Community College, the Agriculture Business Degree program at the Finger Lakes Community College, and the Medical Training Billing program at LaGuardia Community College, are instrumental in helping employers, community colleges, students, and incumbent workers all achieve their potential.


The views expressed in this post are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or the Federal Reserve System. Any errors or omissions are the responsibility of the authors.

Abel_jaisonJaison R. Abel is an assistant vice president in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Research and Statistics Group.

Davis_tonyTony Davis is an officer in the Bank’s Outreach and Education Group.

Deitz_richardRichard Deitz is an assistant vice president in the Bank’s Research and Statistics Group.

Reyes_edisonEdison Reyes is an Associate in the Bank’s Outreach and Education Group.

How to cite this blog post:

Jaison R. Abel, Tony Davis, Richard Deitz, and Edison Reyes, “Just Released: New York State’s Community Colleges are Successfully Partnering with Employers,” Federal Reserve Bank of New York Liberty Street Economics (blog), November 14, 2018,

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