Sometimes, the only option is to evolve.
That was the case for Lorain County Community College in northeastern Ohio, in the heart of the rust belt, when the surrounding manufacturing industry began to crumble in the 1990’s. The college was originally founded to train workers to work in the automotive and steel industries. Leaders had to make a pivot to stay relevant, and to try to keep employees in their jobs. They began to focus on entrepreneurship. Soon, they realized they didn’t need to abandon manufacturing altogether – they just had to evolve for a new world.
Marcia Ballinger, Lorain’s president, said they learned from local employers that the jobs in Northeastern Ohio were no longer in the traditional factories that relied on manual labor. Instead, many of the new advanced manufacturing jobs require people to climb into big, white “bunny suits,” which keep the working environment clean and looking more like a scientific lab than a factory. They’re more likely to be working with microchips and circuit boards than the steel and automotive parts they would have been handling just a few decades ago.
It didn’t happen overnight, but Lorain leaders consulted with 80 regional…