“It is a really great time to be in Central Florida,” Lake-Sumter State College President Dr. Heather Bigard recently told a panel of community stakeholders gathered on the campus of LSSC to discuss community advancement through the groundbreaking workforce education partnership, LakeWorks.
The LakeWorks panel brought together LSSC President Bigard, Lake Technical College Executive Director DeAnna Thomas, Lake County Commissioner Doug Shields, and State Representative John Temple to share how LakeWorks addresses this critical economic development priority at the county and state levels through increased credential attainment in support of Florida’s expanding workforce.
The panelists emphasized the area’s growing workforce and unveiled the strengthening alliance between neighboring LSSC and Lake Technical College (LTC), which will transform how students achieve economic mobility through continued education. Though the two schools have been working together for years, the LakeWorks partnership achieves a new level of collaboration for Lake and Sumter County’s education system and workforce development pipeline.
“One of the first things Dr. Bigard and I did in our roles was meet and discuss how we can work together to create opportunities for students,” Lake Technical College Executive Director Deanna Thomas said. “We continue to look for ways to work together to bring the greatest impact to employers and students in our community.”
While a statewide articulation agreement between technical colleges and state colleges already allows students to transfer credits easily, LSSC and LTC are taking extra steps to model cooperation for the state and creatively expand the opportunities for students to transfer.
The two teams decided that synchronized academic calendars and accepting a multitude of credit hours from each school toward stackable credentials would keep students local by minimizing the negative economic impacts and inconveniences of colleges that are not as connected. LakeWorks allows students – past, present, and future – to attend either or both institutions without having to worry about transferring transcripts or handling other logistics.
The LakeWorks partnership brings a shared webpage, scholarship fund, partnership coordinator staff position, shared data, campus, and vision, both colleges strive to make education more attainable and increase the local workforce. The schools do so not only by considering local business needs but also by prioritizing the students and not duplicating programs. Students are able to save time and money by focusing on their careers at either institution and seamlessly interchanging between the two schools.
“Neither of us have raised our tuition in over a decade and we continue to offer industry-leading programs,” Bigard noted proudly, emphasizing LSSC’s and Lake Tech’s consideration of students’ financial needs.
“One of the core components of this partnership is the goal to continue saving students time and money as they pursue their workforce credentials at either or both of our schools,” Thomas added.
“What’s missing from the full success of this partnership?” Lake 100 Executive Chair and LSSC District Board of Trustees Chair Bret Jones posed from the audience.
Additional support from employers to sponsor students through these programs at both LSSC and LTC is a crucial piece to our success, Bigard said.
While the schools already incorporate local businesses by creating new market-specific programs based on workforce demand and aligning curriculum with industry training standards, Bigard and Thomas hope to continue increasing the employer presence in education.
As the partnership grows, the schools plan to continue creating innovative opportunities for students that lead to employment in high-demand careers in our local community, representing a win-win for students and employers.
LakeWorks is a partnership between Lake Sumter State College and Lake Technical College that promotes student achievement and workforce development in our community by:
- Synchronizing academic calendars to allow for quick transition between courses and programs
- Transferring a variety of credit hours to save students time and money
- Offering more education and career options within Lake County to keep students local
- Encouraging students to obtain stackable credentials, such as additional degrees, certificates, or qualifications, to increase their employability and potential earnings
- Offering higher education opportunities to high school students with a focus on connecting high school programs and certifications to LSSC and/or LTC through career pathways and dual enrollment
- Hiring a shared staff position who is well versed in offerings at both schools to advise students on making the best program enrollment choices for their career goals
- Cross-training all staff and advisors to educate and empower students to utilize both colleges’ offerings
- Sharing a webpage, scholarship fund, student data, and campus to allow for a seamless transition between schools
- Allowing past, current, and future students to take advantage of LakeWorks’ offerings