CATALYST v23n4 - The Classroom and Workplace Connection: An Example for Bay de Noc Community College

Volume XXIII, Number 4
Fall 1993

The Classroom and Workplace Connection: An Example for Bay de Noc Community College

Mary Leisner
Bay de Noc Community College
Escanaba, Michigan

Shirley Behrend
Bay de Noc Community College
Escanaba, Michigan

The Clinton Administration has recently introduced in Congress the School-to-Work (STW) Transition Opportunities Act of 1993. This legislation seeks a fundamental restructuring of both secondary and postsecondary education by adding work-based learning to traditional school-based programs. Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor, affirmed this concept when he addressed a conference on workplace trends in August: "Linking classrooms to the workplace is vital in order to overcome lack of adequate training," he said. (Weiss, p.8) A program developed in 1976 by Bay de Noc Community College could be an example of such a school-to-work transition program.

Contracting With Business and Industry (CWB&I) is an interdisciplinary program that utilizes the local business and industrial complex of the community as a training laboratory. Students can acquire job skills in nontraditional areas and assess their interests and capabilities under realistic settings while learning from professional business people. Basically, the program serves four categories of students. The first group consists of individuals who may or may not have finished high school and have a few saleable skills in the job market. The person in this category is generally "fed up" with going to school, and the program appeals to him or her because of its streamlined, practical approach (Gold, 1979).

The second group of students want a two- or four-year college degree but are uncertain about which occupational field to pursue. The CWB&I program gives these students an opportunity to test the water within a wide range of occupational areas. Students then have the advantage of being able to assess a particular field before their investment of time and schooling is too extensive to redirect (Gold, 1979). Cindi Paarni enrolled at Bay "with a vague interest in physical therapy." Two semesters later after completing her on-the-job training at St. Francis Hospital in Escanaba, Michigan, and related coursework in the sciences, Cindi went on to complete her associate degree. Later, she enrolled in the College of St. Scholastica where she completed her training and became licensed as a physical therapist. She reports, "The exposure I got was excellent; it was real raw, and definitely showed me the real stuff of what P.T. is all about."

The third group served by the CWB&I program consists of older individuals, including the displaced homemaker-- someone currently unemployed. Often the person in this category may possess job skills, but they are outdated or not in demand at this time (Gold, 1979). Fred Peerenboon fit this category. "Things were looking pretty bleak for me and my family. I had been out of work for two years and my unemployment benefits were long gone. Thanks to my experience through Contracting With Business and Industry, I found a job and regained faith in my abilities and confidence in myself."

Recently, a fourth group of students have been attracted to the program. Individuals who are currently pursuing their associate degree or who have intentions of pursuing their bachelor's degree are utilizing CWB&I for its practical hands-on training. These students recognize the importance of on-the-job training and the relevance it has to their advanced coursework. For this group, the program is a stepping stone to higher education. Bob Armstrong, a dental lab student in CWB&I, had the edge when he entered dental school. "A bunch of us would be in the lab and fellow students would sit there for four hours trying to figure out what was going on, and I was done in 20 minutes. Then I would walk around and help the others, which made me look awfully smart. That training with CWB&I at Bay certainly paid off!"

Since its inception in 1976, Bay de Noc Community College has worked with over 300 businesses and industries in its 4-county service area of Delta, Dickinson, Schoolcraft, and Menominee counties. On an average, 80 students are enrolled in the program each fall and winter semester. The concept of the program resembles one of the goals of President Clinton's economic stimulus package. In his State of the Union address last February, the President spoke of his vision "to improve education by encouraging job training to enhance the current and future productivity of our people."

Job training is the core of CWB&I. Businesses who contract with the college agree to train the student for 12 hours per week over two, 16-week semesters. They are responsible for teaching entry level job skills to the student. Tasks and duties as well as expected outcomes are listed as performance objectives for each area of training. These are guidelines to ensure quality training for the student and well-trained employees for the business community. Evaluations are conducted twice during each semester to monitor the training and to maintain program quality. Performance objectives are also reviewed during the evaluation process and changes are made as necessary. These evaluations are also the basis for assigning the student's grade.

Businesses are paid a small stipend for their time spent training the students. Contact hours are monitored by timesheets submitted by each student to the college on a monthly basis. Students are not paid by the business, but are awarded eight academic credit hours per semester. They are also required to enroll in on-campus related instruction (normally two classes per semester). Each area of training has its own curriculum. Coursework is decided on an individual basis according to job training requirements, past education, and experience.

All parties involved in this unique partnership experience benefit. The business finds itself with a potential employee on staff with no salary investment whatsoever. Employers have been able to assess the student as a potential employee with no strings attached. They have discovered that it takes more than work skills to make a good employee. Competition dictates that employees also possess excellent interpersonal communication skills, problem solving and trouble shooting ability, a positive attitude, and motivation. These skills are addressed in a course titled Professional Career Development, which is required for all CWB&I students. Because people skills are mandatory for any job, this Professional Career Development can assist students in developing and fine tuning these skills.

Contracting With Business and Industry also involves the business community in the educational process. The time has arrived for us to work together to educate our people. The private sector can no longer point the finger at the public sector to educate. We all need to get involved. After all, who is more qualified to teach radio announcing than a radio announcer? Meatcutting than a butcher? Photojournalism than a photojournalist? Travel agency clerking than a travel agent? Veterinary assisting than a veterinarian?

Students benefit by having a wider variety of career choices available. Many are either unwilling or unable to pursue a two- or four-year degree. CWB&I allows them to test the water in a given field without a large investment of time and money. We see many students coming back to pursue their degree after the success they've experienced through CWB&I. Students who were once intimidated by college now have the confidence to pursue higher levels of education. Students also find more relevance to their on-campus coursework. They are provided skills immediately transferable to the workplace. An additional benefit to the student is that many are hired during their program or upon completion. CWB&I has given them the foot in the door.

The college also experiences many advantages. CWB&I demonstrates the flexibility and diversity of postsecondary education on a cost-effective basis. We have broadened access for many groups of individuals previously excluded and expanded occupational offerings to students of all ages without appreciably increasing overhead. This is accomplished by utilizing the business/industrial complex of the community as a training laboratory, thus eliminating the need for larger capital expenditures normally required to institute new programming (Gold, 1979a).

The college is in a better position to respond to changing patterns in social-economic educational requirements. As we have discovered in the 90s and more so as we move into the next century, educational requirements are ever-changing, and community colleges are best suited to prepare our people for them . We have been able to increase enrollment by serving the needs of a greater segment of people within our service area who had not been served by our previous offerings. And most important, we can effectively respond to the varied needs of business, labor, and the student body by allowing for greater integration of education with the community and workplace.

Many colleges across the country agree. To our knowledge, 15 have adopted the CWB&I concept. They have discovered, like Bay de Noc, that utilizing community resources is a win-win-win. Businesses benefit by obtaining skilled workers, students benefit by obtaining valuable experience and often a job upon completion, and the college has once again served its community in a very nontraditional way.

As community college educators, we are the best at meeting challenge and diversity. We must become more innovative in establishing linkages and cooperation with other facets of our communities. And in line with the President's initiative on job training, Bay de Noc Community College has been on the forefront of that issue for some time . Perhaps as the President was preparing his economic stimulus package, and specifically the School-to-Work Transition legislation, he'd already heard of Bay de Noc. Contracting With Business and Industry is a viable school-to-work transition program. It integrates occupational and academic learning and work-based and school-based learning. It prepares the student for employment and results in a certificate of achievement and college credit. And the assessment component that is so important to the Administration's School-to-Work plan has been addressed by performance objectives and outcomes. A small, rural community college has made a difference, and we invite anyone to visit us, including President Clinton.


Gold, C. (1 979a). Contracting With Business and Industry: Use Your Community Resources. Paper presented at the Practitioners Hall of Fame, San Diego, CA.

Gold, C. (1979b). In Escanaba, the College Begins with 'Community.' Journal of the American Vocational Association, 54(8), 52-54.

Weiss, J. (1993, July 27). Reich Aims to Train 'A New Kind of Worker.' The Christian Science Monitor, 85(168), 8.

For further information contact:

Mary Leisner, Program Coordinator Contracting With Business and Industry Bay de Noc Community College 2001 North Lincoln Road Escanaba, Ml 49829 1-800-221-2001, ext. 210 or

Shirley Behrend, Program Coordinator Contracting With Business and Industry Bay de Noc Community College 2001 North Lincoln Road, Escanaba, Ml 49829 - 1-800-221-2001, ext. 21

Tracy Gilmore