Economic and Workforce Development Roundtables

Last week, I was pleased to host the second President’s Roundtable for Economic and Workforce Development on the stage of the McKinney Theatre.  Nearly 50 business and community leaders met with college leaders to discuss how to better prepare students to embark upon successful careers.

Community colleges have been linked for many years with economic and workforce development.  We learned from our first roundtable that there are jobs available, but employees are lacking skills in communication, basic math and English, and are not committed to their jobs.  The primary recommendation was that Saddleback College needs to develop and expand its internship program to give students the experience they need to be more successful in the workplace.

Studies have shown that interns are 70 percent more likely to be hired as full-time employees, get a job quicker and have more job offers than those who do not have an internship.  Interns receive 25 percent higher starting salaries than non-interns and average 2.5 months to secure a job, versus 6.3 months for non-interns.

During the  session, Susan Forte O’Neill, President of Forte Designs, facilitated an exciting discussion on ways to build and fund an internship program using a business model.  Jim Leach, CEO of the South Orange County Regional Chamber of Commerce, addressed the roundtable and discussed his group’s partnership with the college to conduct a business retention survey. The chamber is currently providing scholarships for Saddleback College student interns to work on the project.

Saddleback College currently provides internship opportunities through the Cooperative Work Experience program, which combines classroom education with planned, supervised work experience and allows the student to earn college credit for work experience.  For more information about the Saddleback College internship program, please contact Eric Hilden, Career Placement Officer, at or consult the college website at

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