Local Employers Gather at NECC
At Northern Essex Community College’s Advisory Board Summit on Thursday, Oct. 3, 160 business and community leaders met with college faculty and staff to discuss what the college is doing well and how the college could better meet their needs.
The college has 20 academic program advisory boards, comprised primarily of individuals who work in the field and program chairs/coordinators and faculty, as well as an Occupational Advisory Board that tracks general trends in the local economy. These boards meet regularly to provide feedback and ensure that the programs Northern Essex offers are meeting the needs of local employers.
President Lane Glenn greeted the audience and congratulated them on doing a good job. “The degrees that you’ve helped us to put together matter,” he said. “Within a year of graduation, 95% of graduates are employed or have successfully transferred to a four-year college.”
Guests were seated at large round tables during dinner and asked to consider two questions: how Northern Essex is preparing students well for employment and what the college needs to do to improve in this area.
When the dinner hour was over, a representative from each table reported on what had been discussed at his or her table.
There were many common themes on the positive side–internships and content knowledge were mentioned over and over again as things the college does well. And in the needs improvement category, many employers cited written and oral skills, better soft skills, and critical thinking, as well as the desire for even more co-op and internship opportunities.
Dr. Howard Zolot, who introduced himself as a 20-year member of the college’s dental assisting advisory board, said
“One of Northern Essex ‘s best qualities is understanding the diversity of our community and bringing everyone to the table.” He also observed that “While the new generation is technical savvy, their soft skills could use improvement.” Soft skills relate to an individual’s ability to interact effectively with co-workers and customers.
Priscilla Chaves of Greater Lawrence Community Action Headstart, a member of the Human Services Advisory Board, asked the college to consider developing more programs to help adult immigrants who come to this country with degrees and are looking to transition into careers.
When the summit had ended, everyone broke to attend smaller meetings for their specific programs.
Bill Heineman, the college’s vice president of academic and student affairs, was pleased with the success of the college’s advisory board summit, which was the first to be held in many years. “It was exciting to have so many local employers in one room together interacting with our faculty and staff. Moving forward, we’ll be looking for new ways to partner. The ultimate goal is to help our students find fulfilling careers and build a skilled local citizenry and workforce.”