Exploring industry perceptions of the development and sustainability of academia-industry advanced technological education partnerships.
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Kile, Joanna L. (Joanna Le)
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The increasing demands on community colleges to broaden access and provide for the community’s economic welfare, while maintaining its traditional educational role, have served as a powerful impetus for institutional change. Concurrently, institutions have been forced to explore non-traditional avenues to counteract resource scarcity. Community colleges have turned to partnerships as an avenue to ameliorate the challenges faced in the current economic and educational climate. While the onus has been placed on educational institutions to structure these partnerships to ensure success, the empirical literature regarding such collaborations is primarily from the academic perspective. The industry perspective is lacking. Such research is critical for researchers and practitioners in understanding which factors facilitate or impede alliance development with industry companies. Using Austin’s Cross-sector Collaboration Continuum Model as the theoretical framework (Austin, 2000b), this case study explores the major factors contributing to the successful development and sustainability of an industry-academia-government workforce education partnership from the industry perspective. The case study, the Northeast Biomanufacturing Center and Collaborative, is funded by the National Science Foundation and focuses on biomanufacturing education and training. For this study, more than 145 documents were examined and 12 industry representatives from the partnership were interviewed. The findings support the utility of the model in determining the progression of an advanced technological education partnership between industry, education, and government agencies. An analysis of documentation and interview transcripts revealed that the partnership has progressed from the philanthropic to the transactional stage in its seven-plus years of existence. Results also indicate that the eight drivers and enablers defined in Austin’s model align with those cited by industry representatives. Furthermore, the study identified 11 factors considered essential for sustaining an effective partnership—strategic and business planning, financial sustainability, a proven track record, currency and relevancy, continuous improvement, adaptability and flexibility, innovation, maintaining close ties with industry, consistent engagement with partners, continuity among staff members, and a physical presence in the right locale. The revised model and the accompanying evolutionary progression tool will be helpful for any industry-academia partnership in the evaluation of their progression.