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Trading Up: A Project of the Herald

Case study: The Estée Lauder program

How a community college and a large employer are getting kids trained for critical jobs


Imagine a scenario where you attend a local college, receive paid, on-the-job training during your first two years, with tuition covered while earning an optional business degree, after which you graduate directly into full-time employment at the very company that sponsored your education.

Fact or fiction? It’s a resounding reality, available right here, right now.

Bucks County Community College, in partnership with Estée Lauder’s manufacturing and distribution operations in Bristol, offers students this new and innovative career path, dubbed the Supply Chain Scholars Program.

“It’s definitely a well-kept secret that Estée Lauder is such a large employer in Bucks County, retaining about 300 people,” said BCCC’s Greg Luce, Dean of Business, Innovation and Legal Studies. “We learned from them that, like many local employers, they struggle to find people to fill certain roles.”

One of those critical roles is in supply chain management where Estée Lauder has more job openings than qualified applicants.

Conversations ensued between Bucks, The Estée Lauder Companies (ELC) and colleagues at Temple University’s Fox School of Business. The talks focused on the critical local employment need.

Luce connected with Tracy Timby, interim associate vice president for Strategic Partnerships at the community college.

They knew there were many students in Bucks County looking for just this type of opportunity — to work full time in supply change management at a locally based prestige company like Estée Lauder.

So the project partners set out to create a workable pathway to get their students there, ultimately coming up with the current model, the Supply Chain Scholars Program.

It is a collaborative partnership meant to build out a “High School-to-Supervisor” program, with the intention of growing Supply Chain leaders within the Bucks County community.

When ELC donated $200,000 to establish the program, it was the largest corporate investment of its kind in the 60-year history of the college. Its purpose? To cover the costs of students’ education from the day they are admitted into the program, through completion of the associates degree at Bucks, until they earn a bachelor’s degree from co-partner Temple University’s Fox Business School.

“The first cohort of students was selected about a year ago and that acted as our pilot program,” said Luce. “However, since Estée Lauder had firmly committed to the process, the first wave wasn’t a pilot program in the sense that we had to prove that it worked. It was a pilot in that none of us had ever done anything like this before, we couldn’t find anything like this that existed coming out of a college or university. So, the first group was a fascinating learning experience for everyone.”

The Supply Chain Scholars Program is currently completing student selection for the next session.

Throughout the entire pathway, participating students work part-time on-site at Estée Lauder, receive on-the-job experience and are paid for their part-time work. The response from students and their families has been overwhelmingly positive.

For Luce, the fact that a global powerhouse like Estée Lauder made the choice to partner with Bucks County Community College is a ringing endorsement of the type of innovative program offerings the college provides.

At the time the program launched last January, Ken Pickett, Vice President, NA Distribution, The Estée Lauder Companies said, “We are incredibly proud to further our philanthropic investments in the Bucks County community and build a pipeline of emerging talent who can help strengthen our local distribution and manufacturing operations. We look forward to the powerful possibilities that this program will unlock for ELC and Bucks County Community College students.”

Luce remains impressed with Lauder’s broad vision.

“They could easily have chosen to partner directly with Temple University on this degree program,” he said. “Instead, they made an informed commitment to their community, recognizing that Bucks County Community College has underserved students who may have more financial constraints, or have historically been challenged in finding ways to reach their educational potential. Lauder was ready and willing to hire students in their first semester of college, investing in them then and there, knowing that they’re not going to reap the full benefits for another four years. That’s amazing.”

When asked whether BCCC is pursuing other like-minded business education partnerships, Luce explains there cannot be a one-size-fits all paradigm.

“Not every employer is able to do what ELC has done, so we’ve got to create alternative models that will work for other companies,” he said.

Finding that kind of corporate collaboration will be a challenge, however Luce is hopeful the current job market will work in BCCC’s favor.

“It’s become harder and harder for employers to fill the positions they have today,” he said. “This is creating an environment where there may be increased employer willingness to think out-of-the-box and embrace the value of investing in something that may not pay off 100% until several years down the line.”

Says Luce, “Because not every student has the time, the interest, or the inclination to get a bachelor’s degree, I am committed to finding alternate pathways that might not require a four-year degree.”

He and his collaborators envision creating another unique pathway, one that allows students to complete an associates degree or a certificate and immediately move into employment with other local employers.

Reflecting on the success of the Supply Chain Scholars Program, Luce’s enthusiasm and hopes for future programs is palpable.

“I have the best role in this program! I’m the one who calls the students when they get the interview and I’m the one who calls the students when they’re accepted into the program. It is so rewarding to see how life-changing this can be for our students. This is a unique training opportunity, one we are vigorously readying to discuss with other Bucks County employers.”

“Trading Up,” the Herald’s three-week series on the popularity of vocational and technical training in Bucks County, was sponsored by a Foundation Fellows Grant from the PA NewsMedia Association.

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