The Changing Role of the Community College: Economic Development

Introduction - The Changing Role

women with whiteboardCommunity Colleges have traditionally had the responsibilities related to transfer and vocational education. To these responsibilities has been added a new role: economic development. This lesson is about the economic development, community education, and workplace learning programs at your college. Why is this important to you? You may have an opportunity to teach in the community or at a local business, develop your business/government consulting skills, learn new teaching techniques, and earn additional income.

Across the country, community colleges are addressing a rapidly changing marketplace. In preparing individuals for the workforce, the emerging technical demands of employers have greatly impacted the content and delivery of education and training services. Community colleges, business and industry, and government have undergone a number of transitions in response to changing environmental factors. Organizations and community colleges are changing the way they do business, manage new and emerging technologies, restructure organizations, and address global competitiveness.

Addressing the needs of a 21st century economy and workforce is one of the greatest challenges community colleges must embrace. In a spirit of innovation and collaboration, community colleges are expanding their educational opportunities through economic development, contract education, community education, and business and industry training departments. Discover these exciting departments at your local college.

Contract Education

men working at tableThe legal definition of contract education remains as it was put into the California Education Code, section 78024a, in 1987: "Contract Education means those situations in which a community college district contracts with a public or private entity for the purposes of providing instruction or services or both by the community college."

Contract education is the delivery system used by community colleges to deliver customized training, assessment, and consulting services to employers. Contract education programs also offer an array of services designed to improve business and individual performance. Community colleges, through contract business and industry programs, offer a single point of access for employers seeking customized on-site training.

A contract education coordinator, using performance consulting techniques, helps the client to identify solutions for performance improvement. If the solution is determined to be training, the contract education coordinator, along with the client, evaluates and determines the following: what instructional training design is needed, what customization is needed to match the business needs, the length of the training, and the cost. A contract between the college and the business to provide workplace training is signed, sent to the college business office for approval, and an instructor is identified to either do the customized instructional design, facilitate the training, or provide consulting services.

For more information on Contract Education, visit the ED>Net Contract Education Web Page.

Workplace Learning Resource Centers

group discussionWorkplace Learning Resource Centers are funded through the Workplace Learning Initiative of Ed>Net. The purpose of the Workplace Learning Initiative is to provide business and industry with a variety of workplace learning services, including occupational-specific skills assessments, task analysis, basic skills, English as a Second Language, analytical and problem-solving skills, and teamwork.

Through strategically placed Workplace Learning Resource Centers, employers can find affordable on-site training to increase the knowledge and the potential of their workforce. Faculty can also be contracted to provide, for the Workplace Learning Resource Centers and their clients, services such as basic skills training, ESL classes, specialized vocational ESL classes, bilingual instructional design and training, and occupational-specific skills training workshops.

Workplace Learning Resource Centers are located at:

Bakersfield City College

Mission College

City College of San Francisco

North Orange CCD

College of the Desert

Oxnard College

El Camino College

Pasadena City College

Los Rio Community College District

Rancho Santiago Community College District

Merced College

San Diego Community College

For more information on Workplace Learning Resource Centers, visit the ED>Net Workplace Learning Web Page.

Community Education

seniors working on computersCommunity Education programs (sometimes referred to as Community Services or Continuing Education) traditionally offer recreational, personal growth and life-long learning classes to the community at-large. An increasing number of community colleges are delivering workplace training, career preparation, professional development and continuing education units through their not-for-credit community education program.

Community Education departments evaluate the trends and issues affecting the lives of residents and the workforce, determine the training and classes that best support the growth and stability of the local economy, and offer the fee-based classes the market demands. Community education at community colleges and continuing education extension at universities are also meeting the needs of the rapid growing technology industry. Certificate and not-for-credit courses are offered in the field of computer networking (e.g. Microsoft Systems Engineering and Cisco Systems), web page development and design, broadband and telecommunications, and computer maintenance.

Community education classes are fee-based, often very affordable, and offered at a variety of convenient times. Employers are encouraged to send employees to community education workplace training classes when they cannot afford customized contract education or when they do not have enough employees for a class. Employees, supervisors, and managers appreciate the college "certificate of completion" they receive to put in their personnel files. Both faculty and community experts are contracted to teach community education classes. Contact your local community education department and request a catalog to see what courses are offered at your campus.

Becoming a Workplace Trainer

instructor and computersAs a college instructor, you already have many of the skills and knowledge needed to teach a workplace training or community education class. Working with your local departments, you will be coached in how to customize your course objectives and content into a short-course, highly interactive, training design.

Train-the-Trainer classes are offered by your local contract education department (often at FLEX events) to assist you with the terminology and adult learning techniques of a workplace class. Instructional programs at affordable fees are also offered by the Professional Development Institute (PDI). The mission of the Professional Development Institute is to provide education, training and services that contribute to continuous workforce development of community college economic development practitioners and faculty on performance-based training and other best practices. Topics of instruction include Performance Consulting and Instructional Design Methods.

For more information on PDI, visit the Ed>Net Professional Development Institute Web Page.

Most Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are the benefits of your college district doing contract education?
  2. What’s in it for the faculty besides an additional hourly job?
  3. What’s in it for the various departments?
  4. Will teaching contract education classes count toward an instructor’s load?
  5. What salary rate is paid to faculty who teach contract education classes or develop training modules?
  6. What is the difference between traditional classroom instruction and training in business/industry/government?
  7. What are some typical training courses that employers ask for?

1. What are the benefits of your college district doing contract education?

· Collaboration with employers, government agencies and labor organizations to promote economic development in our community
· Improved relations with local employers, which can result in political support for the college from a powerful and influential segment of the community
· Positive visibility for the college through newspaper articles, media features, and community presentations
· Part-time instructor resources
· Donations of equipment to the college
· Improved job placement opportunities
· The design and development of innovative and customized educational programs
· Implementation of programs to meet the multidimensional skills requirements of knowledgeable workers
· Serves as a conduit between the college and its employer community by establishing worksite classes and introducing new students to the college
· Establishes links with employers, professional associations and key individuals in the community to enhance the profile of the college
· Engagement in proactive partnering to serve one global community.

2. What's in it for the faculty besides an additional hourly job?

· Learn new interactive practical application teaching techniques and tools that can be integrated into the academic setting
· Connect with business and industry to discover what employers want. Integrate the skills into your classroom and share the information with students
· Share your discoveries with other faculty at staff meetings
· Participate in free faculty development workshops sponsored by Workplace Learning programs.

3. What's in it for the various departments?
· The use of the technology equipment purchased from revenue and grants
· Retention of part-time faculty because their income is subsidized by contract education.

4. Will teaching contract education classes count toward an instructor's load?

A few colleges have worked with their local administration and union to eliminate community education and contract education hours counting toward an instructor load. Call your campus human resources department to find out what the policy is at your college.

5. What salary rate is paid to faculty who teach contract education classes or develop training modules?

The average hourly rate for instruction or curriculum development (lab) is close to or identical to what your hourly rates are as a faculty member. However, contract education and community education at some colleges are not bound by the union scale hourly rate, and they may pay more. The average hourly rate is between $35 and $50 per hour.

6. What is the difference between traditional classroom instruction and training in business/industry/government?

Traditional Classroom Instruction Workplace Training

Standardized curriculum

Customized curriculum

Writing curriculum

Instructional design

Semester long courses

Length determined by employer

Classes held at college

Classes usually held at company or local hotel

Academic approach

Functional context approach

Earn state apportionment

Contract and fee-based training

Evaluation based on academic measurements

Evaluation based on training impact on job performance

Application of instruction in simulated setting

Application of training in actual environment

Basic skills curricula in academic context

Basic skills curricula in context of specific jobs

Learning objectives - academic and life skills

Learning objectives – skills needed to perform in the job

*Presented by Robin Carvajal, Workplace Learning Resource Center, San Diego CCD, at the ED>Net Conference, 1993.

7. What are some typical training courses that employers ask for?

The training that an employer requests for their business or government organization can be technical job-related skills, supervisor skills, or "soft skills," such as interpersonal communications or customer service. Training programs are usually one topic or skill that might be included in a community college academic course. The average training time that an employer releases their employees or supervisors for, without impacting their productivity, is four to 24 hours (3 days) of training.

The following is a list of training or retraining needs that the public and private sector often request for workplace training:

Business writing skills

Team-building/effective teams

Front-line supervisory skills

Problem-solving skills

Leadership skills

Change Management

Communication skills

Basic skills; e.g., reading, writing, basic math

Diversity Awareness


Microcomputer applications

English as a Second Language


Coaching for performance

Customer Service

Performance management

Total Quality Management

Goal Setting

Statistical Process Control

Time Management

Stress Management

Executive Coaching