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posted: 3/12/2020 1:00 AM

Community colleges: The best kept secret for business owners and employers.

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  • Eric Kurtz

    Eric Kurtz

  • Courtesy of the College of Lake County


If you're a business owner or manager, get the inside scoop on a best kept secret: your local community college.

When I needed help with my personal business more than a decade ago, I came upon the College of Lake County. The training its Workforce & Professional Development Institute experts provided was tailored to specific needs and surpassed my expectations, while remaining affordable.

I was so impressed with CLC, I joined the WPDI team a few years later.

When my wife and I purchased a second business, I learned about financing options from the Illinois Small Business Development Center at CLC. Their instructions helped us successfully secure business and commercial real estate loans. As a past customer and a talent development professional, I have yet to find another resource better than a community college that offers a broad range of expertise through training, coaching and consulting focused on supporting entrepreneurs, business owners and employers.

For decades, community colleges have helped entrepreneurs and employers develop their skills and business acumen. Their services range from skill assessments, training development, public workshops, small group coaching and both online and face-to-face learning solutions. To best serve the community, college programs range from financial acumen and software applications to management and strategic planning.

In addition, community colleges offer programs to develop the technical skills for businesses, including real estate, truck driver, home and building inspection, home staging and pharmacy technician training. If an employer requires positions with professional certifications, related workshops and test prep classes can often be found at community colleges, too.

Community colleges have programs that carry federal and state designations requiring adherence to quality standards. Some examples include project management programs taught by certified Project Management Professionals using Project Management Institute curriculum. Many local community colleges are also approved Illinois Small Business Development and International Trade Centers that help educate business owners with advising and training solutions at little or no cost.

I know from experience that talent development vendors are often selected based on name recognition or price. Your local community college may not yet have name recognition in the talent development space, but you should know it has both current and lengthy experience in talent development that rivals what can be found in a Fortune 500 company. In many cases, facilitators used by national training houses, big named institutions and Fortune 500s are the same facilitators community colleges are using, minus the high overhead and sales commissions. Community colleges may not always be the cheapest game in town, but offer great value. Furthermore, community colleges are partnered with local Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act grant holders who can provide funding for many talent development needs of business owners and employers.

In addition to talent development services, community colleges offer businesses even more services. These include finding candidates for jobs, hiring student interns, hosting apprenticeships and participation in job fairs.

Closing your skill gaps and the skill gaps of your employees is one of the biggest challenges in our current economy. According to the 2019 22nd Annual Global CEO Survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers on the subject of how skills gaps hurt business, the top four impacts CEOs identified included:

• Unable to innovate effectively

• People costs rising more than expected

• Quality standards/customer experience affected

• Unable to pursue a market opportunity

Community colleges are standing by to help you overcome such obstacles.

Based on my personal and professional experience, I highly recommend you get to know the part of your community college that works with entrepreneurs and employers. Don't let this be a secret.

• Eric Kurtz is the executive director of the College of Lake County's Workforce & Professional Development Institute. He and his wife own a boutique event catering company and private flight catering company.