As a community college located in a thriving economy, North Idaho College is expected to help provide the training necessary to provide the region with a skilled workforce. The college is equipped with the flexibility to be responsive to the area’s changing workforce needs, but it lacked an effective structure to determine what those needs are.
A group of almost 20 industry, civic and economic leaders came together recently with college officials to provide input on how the college can better contribute to the overall economic health of the region by helping to meet the changing workforce needs of the community.
The group called Partners in Education comprises representatives from both the public and private sectors, representing key economic areas within the regional economy. These volunteers are encouraged to provide input that will assist the college in identifying labor market needs as well as developing short- and long-term educational programs to help meet those needs.
“This is a venue for them to advise and assist us, by providing thoughtful advice and support to the college’s programs,” said NIC Interim President Priscilla Bell. “We want to provide the best educational opportunities possible to the residents of this area while meeting the training needs expected of us by the community.”
The group will meet at least quarterly, discussing in an open venue the needs of local business and industry and NIC’s capacity to meet those needs through various workforce training, professional-technical and academic programs. Questions, concerns, criticisms and suggestions are encouraged.
“Of the group, and there was a good cross section of people, there seemed to be a consensus of thought—we all feel strongly about having a true community college,” said former director of Jobs Plus Bob Potter, who now operates Potter Consulting. “I believe the gathering of this group is a positive move.”
Though the group does not have the authority to implement changes in college programs, the recommendations made will be utilized by the college in a variety of ways, according to Bell. While some ideas may lead to the creation of new programs that will meet the changing economic needs in the community, others may be forwarded to existing NIC advisory committees to affect changes within the college’s current programs.
“We are just glad to have opened this line of communication and we believe all sides will benefit from this partnership,” Bell said.
The Partners in Education program will be reevaluated in a year to determine its effectiveness and its helpfulness to the college. The group will meet again next month.
Jim Elder of Cricket’s Steakhouse and Oyster Bar (center) comments during the first Partners in Education meeting held by North Idaho College while Paul Anderson of Avista Utilities and Coeur d’Alene Mayor Sandi Bloem look on. The group was established to provide input to help identify community workforce needs and ways for the college to help meet those needs.