The college is increasingly tuning into the specific needs of the business community that surrounds it and initiating a wide variety of programs that will attract and train students who could eventually be employed by those businesses and fulfill their ongoing needs. In this way they are helping young people find meaningful and lucrative work at the same time that they are contributing to the success of area businesses and the health of local communities.
“In order to meet critical workforce needs in the surrounding community, we know that we have to be connected to area businesses,” said Michelé Smith, associate provost and vice president of workforce solutions for Harper. “We are a comprehensive college where students can be trained to go to work, go back to work in a new field or progress to the next level in their job. That is our promise to the community.”
In addition, students at public high schools in the Harper District (Districts 214, 211 and 220) may qualify for two tuition-free years at Harper, as well as a first shot at job opportunities at local businesses, through the Promise Scholarship program which is supported by over 80 local businesses. To qualify, students must demonstrate solid grades, a good attitude and service hours. In addition to receiving free tuition, they are given the opportunity to participate in mock interviews and job shadowing and are given access to preferential hiring.
Research shows that by the year 2020, two-thirds of jobs will require some sort of education and training beyond high school. To increase access to a college credential and help build a prepared workforce, Harper College launched the Promise Scholarship Program in partnership with local schools and businesses. Students at public high schools in the Harper district (Districts 214, 211 and 220) can earn two tuition-free years at Harper by demonstrating solid grades, good attendance, quality work and service hours. In addition to free tuition, more than 80 local businesses are committed to providing Promise Scholars with opportunities such as mock interviews, job shadowing and preferential hiring.
“We are very fortunate that so many area businesses want to come to the table with us and offer scholarships to our students. We also have many robust advisory committees in our various areas of study, making sure that we prepare our students well for futures in their employ. They have learned that they can trust us to train our students well, so they want to collaborate with us and influence what we teach,” Associate Provost Smith stated.
To that end, Harper College, through its Business Solutions program, provides customized, professional training programs to help employers stay competitive and their employees gain new skills. Harper consultants work with companies and organizations to plan and offer tailored training experiences. Its cost-effective programs deliver value where, when and how businesses want them to be delivered.
Through its “Business EdVantage” program Harper also makes college tuition affordable for all area employees. Taking advantage of Haper’s EdVantage program allows companies to stay competitive and provide a higher education career path for technical, professional, office and management staff members alike. All businesses within the Harper District can have their employees enroll and take college credit courses at the in-district rate, no matter where they happen to live.
Area businesses that are losing skilled workers to retirement may hire apprentices to rebuild their workforces through Harper College’s Registered Apprenticeship programs. These programs currently range from precision machining to supply chain management, industrial maintenance and banking and finance, as well as business insurance. And there are more programs on the horizon.
Apprentices can graduate debt-free and already employed. Harper’s partner employers will hire a student, pay them a salary with benefits and pay for their education. Harper’s Registered Apprenticeship programs effectively meet the needs of employers and job seekers or career changers. A minimum Harper College GPA of 2.0 is required to be eligible for these programs.
Area businesses may also fill job openings by interviewing Harper College students and graduates. They can place their openings on the Harper College online “Hire A Hawk” job board through the Job Placement Resource Center at no cost.
With Hire a Hawk, businesses can post their open positions and have Harper students and alumni apply directly through the site, at no cost to them.
Harper College also helps small area businesses through the Illinois Small Business Development Center at the Harper Professional Center in Schaumburg. Many companies need expert help most when they are still small and can least afford it. The Illinois Small Business Development Center at Harper offers no-cost, confidential, one-on-one guidance and workshops to help small business owners achieve marketing, financial and operational success.
Their talented team of seasoned business advisors will help small business owners identify, understand and overcome the challenges of running a successful business. From someone who has an idea for a home-based business to an established company in need of capital to finance their next stage of growth, they work closely with clients to find solutions that work best for them.
In addition, Harper recently established a “Shark Tank-style” program that awards funds to expanding businesses and seed money for startups. With the help of a generous gift from Barrington-area philanthropist Kim Duchossois, the “Dream Big – Angel Grant” benefits selected recipients from both the community and Harper’s entrepreneur program. The recipients are chosen by the Harper entrepreneur program faculty, college foundation board members, and staff of the school’s Small Business Development Center.
In the first year community recipients included Richard McCaffrey of Inverness who got $10,000 to help launch and patent technology that performs robotic casting of concrete modules that can be used in construction of apartments, hotels, dorms and hospitals; Ana Santos and Mario Vitelo, owners of Brazil Express Grill in Schaumburg, got $10,000 to help market their casual Brazilian steakhouse, start catering and possibly open a second location; and Megan Hastings of Des Plaines got a $5,000 grant for her gluten-free cookie subscription box company, Lush Bites.
In addition, Harper has solicited and received a number of scholarships from area businesses which make higher education or continuing education a possibility for students in the area. For instance, Northrop Grumman and Schneider Electric both offer engineering scholarships and Nation Pizza offers a culinary arts scholarship, as well as one in mechatronics. Other benefactors offering scholarships at Harper College include the Motorola Solutions Foundation, Chicago White Metal Casting Inc., Chicago Prime Steakhouse, First Bank of Highland Park and Wintrust. The Harper College Educational Foundation works with the donors to determine the criteria for each particular scholarship and oftentimes the scholarship providers sponsor events at the College and offer tours of their facilities.
Finally, don’t forget that the Harper College Wojcik Conference Center is available to host local firms’ business meetings. It offers state-of-the-art meeting facilities for groups from five to 250. A multi-tiered auditorium, small meeting rooms and a hotel-class dining room at the Conference Center can serve virtually anyone’s meeting requirements.