Gloucester County College in New Jersey partners with a local bakery to create mutually beneficial training and development opportunities.

What is the magic formula for creating a college-to-business partnership? Do these relationships flourish because of innovative higher education institutions that are eager to serve, or is it the visionary human resource executives who take the lead and make it happen? Perhaps the cause for partnership success is far more practical—both partners have critical pieces of the puzzle to contribute and need each other to make a meaningful difference in developing the knowledge and skills of the workforce.

Since 2006, LaBrea Bakery, one of the largest and most renowned bakeries of artisian breads in the United States, has partnered its Swedesboro, New Jersey, location with local Gloucester County College (GCC) to provide its employees with a full spectrum of employee training services.

Initially, like many other employer-community college partnerships, the LaBrea Bakery–GCC relationship began when GCC provided grant writing assistance to access state training dollars through the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development. LaBrea was awarded a grant for $334,100 which provided training to 145 employees on a wide variety of skills ranging from English as a second language and Microsoft Office skills, to machinery production maintenance training. And that was only the beginning. Since that time, LaBrea and GCC have not only collaborated on another successful grant application, but they have also worked together to develop new programming.

Sally Switzer, human resource manager at LaBrea’s Swedesboro location, is a business advisor for GCC and has contributed her knowledge of employee training in the food industry and the critical needs of her employee base at LaBrea to assist with designing food manufacturing training courses. This cooperation created a new business training focus for the college, which has already provided more than 7,000 units of training to employers in courses such as food supply and bioterrorism, hazard analysis and critical control point certification, allergen awareness, and many more. Built on these stand-and-deliver courses, 22 new computer-based modules are now available in three languages.

The GCC-LaBrea relationship continues to grow because of mutual respect and need. Community colleges are often privy to resources of which most employers might not be aware. Switzer notes, “It is a misconception that there is no money out there for training. There is, and much of it is not being used because nobody knows about it.” Switzer has taken advantage of other grant-funded training programs through GCC like Microsoft Excel courses, provided to 42 of her employees in May.

Colleges need businesses to serve as working advisors so that curriculum has relevance and value for their organizational goals and employees’ knowledge and skills. While there is no magic formula, this kind of partnership takes work to ensure that the relationship continues to flourish and grow and is beneficial for everyone involved.