While it can feel comfortable to look in the rearview mirror and lean on strategies that have worked in the past, true opportunity lies in a forward view. In today’s world of rapid change, any chance to remain a step ahead is an advantage. Through listening and learning with an open mind, innovative leaders can pick up on the signals of outside forces, poised to disrupt. And within this disruption, opportunities can be seized for our region to thrive.
At Lorain County Community College, we use a process of strategic foresight that has prepared us for the economic renaissance taking place in Ohio, evidenced by Intel’s new semiconductor manufacturing facilities breaking ground near Columbus and Ford Motor Company’s investment in building electric vehicles in Avon Lake. Strategic foresight is an intentional process of using ideas about the future to anticipate and better prepare for change, and then using those ideas to make better decisions, guide investments, and evoke action.
More than a decade ago, industry leaders were beginning to foresee a growing need in the semiconductor and microchip sector as they strived to make products smart and connected. Though it seemed a doubtful future to some for the Midwest to become a key player in this space, we paid attention to the signals from local employers and initiated action. Together, we collaborated with industry to establish the infrastructure and programs to build a semiconductor talent pipeline from the ground up in anticipation of this moment.
As a result, LCCC now offers Ohio’s only bachelor of applied science and associate of applied science degrees in microelectronic manufacturing, as well as short-term certificates. LCCC developed these programs a decade ago with direct input from 80 industry partners already part of the semiconductor supply chain in Northeast Ohio. This collaboration has ensured a 100 percent employment rate for LCCC graduates in the field — and these are good-paying jobs with family-sustaining wages. Due to the success of this program, LCCC is now at the forefront of several collaborations focused on expanding industry-relevant education and training programs to meet the growing employer need.
It is an exciting time in Northeast Ohio. You can feel the energy as our state and region prepare to become integral to the nation’s semiconductor and microchip production. These expansions and others bring supply chain and talent workforce demands that are rippling across the Midwest region. An intersectional opportunity like this does not happen by accident but results from years of strategic foresight by industry, government, higher education and other key players.
At Lorain County Community College, strategic foresight is essential to serving the community and preparing students for our region’s in-demand careers. Through intentional partnerships with employers, we listen and build an understanding of their changing needs. We stay connected so we can be proactive — not reactive — when opportunities arise and impact our community.
While none of us has a crystal ball, by applying strategic foresight, curiosity, engagement and a little risk-taking, we can seize the opportunities presented by signals echoing in our changing environment. As we lean into this moment, our economy strengthens, and individuals and communities prosper. ●
Marcia J. Ballinger, Ph.D. is President of Lorain County Community College