[caption id="attachment_52618" align="alignright" width="181"]<img class="size-medium wp-image-52618" src="https:\/\/theenterprise.net\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/23\/2021\/05\/Candidate4-181x300.jpg" alt="" width="181" height="300" \/> Dr. Jermaine Ford[\/caption]\r\n\r\nBy Brandon Martin\r\n\r\nDr. Jermaine Ford is hoping his\u00a0background in private business and his experience\u00a0will help foster relationships with local stakeholders in his quest to\u00a0serve as the next president of Patrick Henry Community College.\r\n\r\nFollowing his undergraduate studies, Ford said he originally thought he would enter the field of library sciences until his path took an unexpected turn.\r\n\r\n\u201cI found my next step in business and industry,\u201d he said. \u201cWorking in business and industry, working up in several rankings and running my own firm.\u201d\r\n\r\nWhile serving on a board, Ford said he was asked about his next step.\r\n\r\n\u201cI know the good Lord wants me to do something and I\u2019m trying to figure out what that is,\u201d Ford recalled saying at the time.\r\n\r\nFord said he was told his skillset would be valuable for workforce development at the community college level.\r\n\r\nHe was told \u201csomebody with your skillset\u201d would be valuable because Ford \u201cnot only worked in higher education\u201d but also \u201cbusiness and industry.\u201d\r\n\r\nFord said he was sought as a prospect because he \u201cnot only knew the language of higher education\u201d but also \u201cthe language of business and industry.\u201d\r\n\r\nUpon being told something similar from a colleague, Ford said he informed his wife that their lives would change forever as he would be pursuing his new goal of working in administering higher education.\r\n\r\n\u201cAt my current institution at South Louisiana Community College, one of the things that I have been able to serve and be very instrumental in is connecting to business and industry and then bringing that back to the college as well as our superintendents for k-12,\u201d Ford said.\r\n\r\nHe said the key is pinpointing the future goals of those industries.\r\n\r\n\u201cAny time we are looking to expand business into the region or recruit business into the region, I as the next president of PHCC will be at the table,\u201d Ford said, and if chosen for the position, \u201cI don\u2019t care if I need to put on some overalls and meet with our local farmers or if I have to put a suit and tie on and meet with my local CEO. At the end of the day, it\u2019s about service to the region.\u201d\r\n\r\nFord said this will allow PHCC to \u201cconnect the dots\u201d between industry needs and curriculum goals in terms of promoting trade careers.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe do career planning at 7th grade, 9th grade and 11th grade. I would love for as early as 5th or 6th grade to really start to work with those career counselors,\u201d Ford said.\r\n\r\nAnother way of engaging interest in students to enter trades would be to hold \u201csigning days\u201d that are similar to when athletes sign on to play at certain universities.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s something that I\u2019ve done at my current institution. I\u2019ve got to tell you, it\u2019s gone really, really far. Especially, in rural communities where we have major CEOs and employers,\u201d Ford said. \u201cIt\u2019s nothing like students, not just walking across the stage, but students going to work and the presidents and CEOs of those organizations are physically there with the hardhats and uniforms saying \u2018you\u2019re graduating on Friday and you\u2019re going to work on Monday.\u2019\u201d\r\n\r\nAlong with getting business leaders to contribute to recruiting students to PHCC, Ford said he would like to have them involved with fundraising efforts for new buildings and equipment.\r\n\r\nHaving previously discussed hiring difficulties for a motorsports company in Louisiana, Ford said he was able to get buy-in from the businesses to make capital improvements with a guarantee to funnel employees to that company.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe have to understand where our business and industry partners are. What are their pain points? How can we help close the gaps,\u201d he said.\r\n\r\nFord is one of four finalists in the running to serve as the next president of PHCC.\r\n\r\nHe has 14 years of experience in higher education, after starting his career in 1994 at DePaul University in the Access Services Department. From 1999 to 2012, Ford worked in private industry at Ready Computer, Global Ink and Accessories, and Sustain Technology, Inc. In 2012, he returned to higher education at Moraine Valley Community College in Illinois as the WIA Youth Worksite Manager for one year. He then became a Business Services Consultant at the same institution. In 2015, he moved to South Louisiana Community College first as the Director of Corporate College, then in 2016 as the Associate Vice President, Workforce and Economic Development, and finally in 2019 as the Vice President, Workforce and Economic Development, the position he currently holds. Ford earned his associate degree from Moraine Valley Community College, his bachelor\u2019s from DePaul University and his master\u2019s degree from the University of Phoenix. He earned his doctorate from Grand Canyon University.