Washburn University and Washburn Institute of Technology have a unique relationship – the Technical College is under the leadership and management of the University. It is rare to see a technical college combined with a university, but it is a model that has proven successful in Kansas over the last four years. I had the chance to learn all about this unique partnership earlier this week when, as Chair of the National Coalition of Certification Centers (NC3), I visited Topeka, Kansas, for a ribbon cutting ceremony for Washburn IT’s new Trane-NC3 Midwest Training Center for Climate Change and Energy Control Technologies (Center) and a roundtable discussion on productive partnerships.
Kansas state has a strategic vision for strengthening its economic and workforce development efforts. As part of this vision, the Kansas Board of Regents is a member of the National Coalition of Certification Centers, which has connected Kansas and Washburn IT to Snap-on Tools, Trane, and a network of colleges throughout the country that are focused on career and technical education. These strategic partnerships led to the establishment of the Center, which has already galvanized support from business, education and government leaders in Topeka and across Kansas. Even Governor Brownback attended the pre-ribbon cutting ceremony, where he reinforced the importance of accelerating the movement of students from the K-12 system through the higher education system. Within the last year or so, Kansas committed to paying tuition for high school juniors and seniors who choose to enroll in career and technical college (Washington has a similar program called Running Start). This is an important move for Kansas, because as Governor Brownback noted, Kansas must grow its own talent since it is not currently a net importer.
The roundtable discussion was attended by an impressive list of educators, government officials, and partners from business and industry. The lively discussion centered around the significance of partnerships and collaborative efforts that foster an environment of success. More specifically, we discussed: 21st century career and technical education; developing pathways to prosperity; designing and implementing credentials and skill certifications; increasing high quality school to college career teaching; expanding business and industry partner engagement; high performance campus improvements and fiscal stewardship; experiential learning environments and job shadowing; and expanding the number of young people who are prepared to succeed.
My takeaways from this experience are clear. Partnerships and collaborative efforts are key to fostering an environment of success. The reciprocity between and among multi-national corporations and small and medium enterprises was clearly highlighted, and they have the ability to leverage resources to drive a compelling vision for economic and workforce development. This has the potential to have a catalyzing impact on education and government.