The Importance of Community Partnerships

Adult education programs provide students with essential workplace experience and training. But although these programs are effective, they can be strengthened and improved through community partnerships. 

This extends to the partnership between Holmes Community College (HCC) and Goodwill Industries of Mississippi, which began in order to provide customer service education to individuals with low income. 

The partnership began with Vicki Burton, Goodwill Vice President of Workforce Development, who was interested in providing students with opportunities to learn valuable job skills. Burton had the makings of a workforce training program but felt that the program was missing a key component: adult education. This key component, Burton realized, could only be attained through community partnerships and thus partnered with HCC to actualize the initiative. 

“The ability to provide students with more resources to be successful can only be accomplished through community partnerships”, stated Burton.

On March 22, 2021, after a year of collaboration and strategic planning, HCC and Goodwill kicked off the pilot project “Customer Service Employment Academy (CSEA)”. Located at Goodwill’s training center in Ridgeland, Mississippi, CSEA combined the benefits of workforce training with the efficiency of adult education. 

CSEA provided an extensive six-week program to students who were enrolled in Holmes’ adult literacy and workforce preparation activities (including Smart Start Pathway Course and ACT WorkKeys programs). Students also participated in Goodwill’s workforce training program, which included Customer Service and Sales courses through the National Retail Foundation. 

Students who complete the program receive several credentials that make them more competitive in the job market. These credentials include the Mississippi Smart Start Credential, National Career Readiness Certificate, and the Customer Service and Sales Certificate. CSEA’s first graduating class included nine students who completed the six-week program on May 3, 2021. 

Earline Smith, Director of Adult Education at Holmes Community College, is extremely proud of the partnership with Goodwill. Smith expressed excitement when reflecting on the first group of students saying: 

“This initiative will allow other adult learners to benefit from the various resources and services offered by our adult education program.” 

It is through transformative partnerships, such as the partnership between HCC and Goodwill, and through adult education that students can continue to learn and become more competitive in the job market. 

Congrats to the first CSEA class!

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