Creating pathways to success

Whether you’ve recognized it or not,
colleges and universities in
Northeast Ohio are at your service.

“We offer professional development programs, personal enrichment classes, technical associate degrees responsive to
workers’ needs, a host of bachelor’s
degrees and advanced professional
degrees, specialized centers and institutes,” says Patricia A. Book, Ph.D., vice
president for regional development for
Kent State University. “We seek to find
matches between business, industry, communities, colleges and universities.”

Because employers of all types are facing
a fiercely competitive environment, they
increasingly need a skilled work force,
improved research and development,
advanced technology and training.

Smart Business talked with Book about
educational/training services available to
businesses of all sizes in Northeast Ohio.

I’m a corporate CEO. What can you do for

Colleges and universities can work with
your company on a host of issues related to
organizational development. That could
involve customized training for your
employees in interpersonal communication skills, leadership development, key
attributes of successful performance, or
emotional intelligence.

We find that there is a lot of need in the
soft skill areas, like working in teams,
thinking critically and innovatively, basic
supervision and leadership skills.

We can provide customized training for
your employees as well as organizational
assessments, including assessing employee competencies. We can help with succession planning — a huge issue in Northeast
Ohio where we have an aging work force.

Also, if you have a fairly large research
and development capability, we can connect your scientists with scientists at the
university to do collaborative research, to
solve problems, develop prototypes, and
provide Lean/Six Sigma kinds of programs
to improve profits.

There are lots of training providers available in the Northeast Ohio region. For instance, the Enterprise Ohio Network has
access to state training funds. Some companies in a competitive or survival mode
realize they need to invest in their talent
development and their human capital, but
they just don’t have the resources to do it.
Lorain County Community College,
Lakeland Community College, Tri-C and
Kent State’s seven regional campuses all
have our distinct areas of expertise and we
all benefit from our involvement in the
Enterprise Ohio Network.

Why has it taken so long for higher education
to develop such ties with regional business
and industry?

About 30 years ago, in some ways, public
higher education institutions got away
from their roots as engaged institutions
with their communities. They became very
focused on developing their research capabilities — and that was a good thing,
because they made enormous contributions to the country.

But in the last 10 years or so, there’s been
a real reawakening. A national conversation has developed about returning to our
roots as public institutions and re-engaging
in meaningful ways with our sponsoring
public and stakeholders, who have seen higher education sometimes get out of
touch with their needs.

An important element of this idea is not
that we sit in our ivory towers and bestow
our wisdom on the community, but that we
seek mutually beneficial partnerships and
relationships that are win-win.

We each have something special to bring
to the table as we address problems and
seek opportunities where we can work
together. The university brings faculty, students, and scientists with certain capabilities in research and analysis, and investment. External partnerships also bring
their unique capabilities to the table. So
when we bring those together in partnerships that are mutually beneficial and
respectful, we are achieving the engagement ideal. It’s not one-way outreach but a
two-way reciprocal relationship.

This culture shift in higher education gets
us back to the ideal of a public university as
a resource to its community. We’re predominantly producers of talent — high-quality undergraduates and graduates —
but in addition to that, we have a responsibility to engage more broadly in real, live,
everyday problems our communities are
facing so that we can make a difference.

What provoked this important cultural
change at our state’s institutions of higher

The decline in public support for higher
education has been a wake-up call. Public
policymakers began to invest state
resources in other areas, making them less
able to support higher education. The cost
burden is falling increasingly on the student and family without a lot of hue and cry
from the public. That’s why on a national
scale public policymakers have lost sight
of higher education as an investment in the
future of the country — in a very flat world
where competition is very fierce. Recent
news from Columbus suggests Ohio plans
to invest in higher education and this is
very good news for the state.

PATRICIA A. BOOK, Ph.D., is vice president for regional development for Kent State University. Reach her at (330) 672-8540 or
[email protected].