Making the case for educational and industry partnerships
A Q&A with Seminole State President Dr. Georgia Lorenz
Thursday, March 2, 2023
Written by: Seminole State Staff
Photo: Students in Seminole State's construction program receive real-world training thanks, in part, to the program's advisory board, which helps the College design and build classes that meet industry needs.
As one of Central Florida’s premier institutions for workforce development, Seminole State College of Florida has been in the business of building industry partnerships and addressing regional training demands for more than 50 years.
Dr. Georgia Lorenz, president of Seminole State College, shares her perspective on employer and industry partnerships, advisory boards and strategic advances which help students develop workforce skills and organizations gain access to highly trained employees.
Why are employer partnerships so important to Seminole State?
Lorenz: Industry and employer partnerships are central to our mission of providing opportunity for students and graduates and a steady flow of employees for businesses. As Central Florida continues to grow, the need for workers is challenging, especially for those in health care, IT, business management and other hard-to-fill roles.
Employer partnerships are valuable for everyone. For the college, they keep our programs in sync with current and future employer needs. For employers, partnerships provide access to a pool of graduates in high demand areas. They also provide opportunities for upskilling and reskilling existing employees for promotion or new roles, often using employer-sponsored tuition reimbursement programs. And for students, the close cooperation between faculty and employers means our graduates are equipped with the hard and soft skills that employers demand so that they can easily transition into their chosen career. This is particularly true when programs combine classwork with hands-on learning or internships.
How can employers get involved?
Lorenz: Many of the world’s leading companies in Seminole County and greater Orlando contribute to our employer partnerships. These activities include:
- Serving on advisory boards and assisting deans and faculty with program development.
- Increasing opportunities for students to gain hands-on learning through internships and on-the-job training.
- Employing our students upon graduation. For Associate in Science degree holders the job placement rate is 94%.
Can you share some examples of successful employer partnerships?
Lorenz: Over the years, we have had successful partnerships in many areas so I will highlight a few.
With Orlando organization The Fund, we partnered to develop a Real Estate Paraprofessional Certificate, which trains students in the intricacies of real estate transactions throughout the state of Florida. And in response to a need identified by The Hartford, we have trained new employees in the insurance sector, graduating nine new Hartford apprentices just this month.
Some of our most successful partnerships have been with Seminole County Public Schools (SCPS), developing homegrown talent to meet the teacher shortage. We recently launched new bachelor’s degrees in elementary education (K-6) and exceptional student education (K-12) which were developed in collaboration with SCPS. In addition, we have worked together to develop the TEACH program, which gives high school students a pathway to a guaranteed teaching position at SCPS via dual enrollment and an Associate in Arts degree at Seminole State and a bachelor’s degree at UCF.
When our hospital partners needed more bachelor’s trained nurses, we were able to address the nursing shortage by developing and launching a fully online RN-to-BSN degree. With Orlando Health and AdventHealth we have also been able to co-develop dedicated education units (DEU) at local hospitals, which enable senior nursing students to work with experienced nursing preceptors to enhance their ability to work with patients upon graduation.
And we are partnering with Seminole County to activate the potential of its residents with our Seminole State Commits program. Working with the county leadership, we are expanding our reach to neighborhoods of opportunity. As a first step we have been offering business certificate programs and GED preparation programs in the city of Sanford’s Goldsboro neighborhood, and we have plans to expand further to address educational disparity in the county.
You’ve talked in the past about the importance of work experience. What is your goal for Seminole State students?
Lorenz: We know that when students can integrate their academic work and career goals, they are more likely to persist and graduate. So, we seek out work-based learning experiences whenever possible. Ultimately, I would like every student to have the opportunity for a paid internship during their college career and for every business to employ a paid intern. This practice helps our students become career-ready, gaining both the technical skills and soft skills that employers need and want. And it can help businesses address current workforce needs and identify great talent in our region.
How are you working with employers and flexing programs to meet market needs?
Lorenz: In addition to meeting the very pressing need for nurses and teachers, Seminole State also offers contract training through the College’s Center for Business Development, which was featured in the hub last month, and specialty programs in sectors such as automotive, construction and IT.
Our advisory board for the construction program has been very active and supportive in helping our deans and professors design and build classes that meet current industry needs. In construction trades we will be launching a Control Specialist Certificate in 2023 to enable electricians to train in building automation systems, which are more and more prevalent in commercial and residential settings. We are using the latest technology in our construction programs, and we have brought back welding to meet industry demand.
In information systems technology our advisory board members and adjuncts are IT professionals and are invaluable in informing us of the knowledge, skills and abilities they need from our graduates. To help students we are also shortening the path to a credential and flexing how courses are delivered with 12-week and eight-week sessions that lead to an industry-recognized certification and are stackable toward a degree. We are also looking at mini boot camps that enable students to earn a credential in an even shorter amount of time.
And we continue to work with Universal Orlando to train ride and show operators in robotics and mechatronics and trade apprentices in HVAC, electrical and plumbing programs. Since the start of the partnership in 2018, Universal Orlando has trained almost 250 employees between the two programs.
We encourage all employers to get involved with the college so that our students, graduates and industry benefits and we can all Go State. Go Far.
Employers interested in recruiting Seminole State students and alumni for career or internship opportunities can get started through our Career Development Center.
Seminole State College of Florida, established in 1965, serves more than 25,000 students across six sites in Central Florida. A full-service education provider, Seminole State has thrived by adapting to and meeting the needs of an ever-changing, vibrant community. Seminole State offers 11 bachelor’s degrees in high-demand, high-growth fields; two-year associate degrees; specialized certificates; continuing professional education; adult education and guaranteed admission via DirectConnect to UCF® to the University of Central Florida for Associate in Arts (A.A.) graduates. By offering flexible, affordable, high-quality educational programs and services, the College continues to help students learn, succeed and GO Far. For more about Seminole State, visit seminolestate.edu.
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This story first published in the "Orlando Business Journal" Workforce Development Hub Oct. 25, 2022.