In May, EMSI had the privilege of traveling to Walla Walla Community College, co-recipient of the 2013 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. WWCC, which is in the lovely town of Walla Walla, Wash., is only a two-hour drive from EMSI’s headquarters in Moscow, Idaho, and was one of the first colleges to partner with EMSI on the community college Economic Impact Study. The relationship is now over 10 years strong, and we are very encouraged and not all that surprised to see the recognition and great success the college has been enjoying.
To celebrate that success and help others hear their good story, EMSI recently produced a video with WWCC. Take a look:
A lot of this success has to do with the culture that WWCC has established and how focused they are on being industry-led and data-informed. President Steven Van Ausdle speaks very openly about how the mission of the college is the economic development of the region. As a result, the college has a strong working relationship with industry partners to ensure that students are being equipped with the right skills and knowledge. When these students enter the workforce, they are ready. This is particularly reflected in programs such as Wind Energy Technology, Water and Environment, John Deere Technology, Nursing, and Enology and Viticulture. During our visit, we were very impressed to learn how well students do in industry as a result of these programs.
As a company that strives to help organizations better understand workforce and economic realities, we are encouraged to see how a college like WWCC can turn data into better results for students and the community at large. EMSI’s primary goal is to help people turn data into real intelligence that will positively impact people’s lives and lead to greater regional prosperity. In many ways, this is the key to true economic recovery. Strong regional economies with leadership that knows what needs to be done to create jobs, nurture industries, and build the type of talent that can prosper is the essential ingredient to a flourishing national economy.
And after 10 years of working with Walla Walla Community College we can clearly state that one of the things that sets the college apart is how much they invest in studying and measuring the economic realities and contributions of their programs. Here are two illustrations of that:
The Wine Study
In 2007 and 2011, the college partnered with EMSI (click here to read our full study) to better understand the economic role of the wine industry has on the region. This type of research is certainly key in validating the real value and potential of an industry and to what extent the college should support and nurture it. The report found that the wine industry helps to explain over 14% of the jobs in the community and that the impact is only increasing. Such figures lend significant support and evidence to increased efforts to help grow, support, and provide talent to nurture the industry in the area.
This is the perfect application of labor market data and economic analysis:
- Show the economic realities facing the community,
- Understand where the greatest impacts are being generated,
- Research what steps can be taken to improve the strengths of the economy, and
- Drive talent in those directions.
In 2009, when EMSI had the idea of creating a new product to help students better understand the local labor market and how it relates to jobs, WWCC was all ears. They were eager to test the idea and, as a result, WWCC became the first college to adopt Career Coach. We encourage you to take a closer look at its site, and perhaps search for a job in their community. Walla Walla really is a great place to be, and WWCC has a lot to do with it.
This is where the rubber meets the road, and this is where data become much more than data; it becomes better results for those who take advantage of it. So, congrats to WWCC! We look forward to much more success from our friends there. We also want to encourage more colleges to take a look at what Walla Walla has done.
Here is a closing note from Kjell Christophersen, co-founder of EMSI:
WWCC was our very first client for the Economic Impact Study, along with Everett Community College, where we cut our teeth on economic impact analysis. Steve Van Ausdle and his staff helped us identify variables of importance, had us incorporate specific community college nuances and characteristics—in general made the first version of the impact model be as representative of the community college world as possible. His passion for his work as a college president was contagious, which really made our work a lot more pleasurable than it could have been. Since this first effort with WWCC, I think Steve discovered the benefits of having us as a consultant, and so we became partners in major efforts he undertook along the way: the importance of the wine industry, and the creation of the water center at the college. It has been a real privilege to work with them and to see their success.