COLLEYVILLE — Interim Chancellor Elva LeBlanc sees few entities that can rival Tarrant County College’s impact on economic development.

TCC is one of the largest higher education institutions in Texas — and the nation. The college has six campuses across the county, with some having individual enrollments larger than many universities. And the college is deeply embedded into K-12 school districts.

“We play a key role in the economic development of the region,” she said.

LeBlanc was the featured speaker at the Colleyville Executive Organization’s July breakfast meeting. The group of business leaders meet monthly to hear from local officials. This also was an opportunity for LeBlanc to bring more attention to TCC, an institution that often flies under the radar.

The interim chancellor described community colleges, like TCC, as a uniquely American idea because they are available to all people and at an affordable price. Community colleges help develop a well-educated workforce — a necessary piece for a working democracy, she said.

Helping business is important. However, LeBlanc stressed students are at the center of everything TCC does. In the 2020-21 academic year, the college awarded more than 8,000 degrees and certifications. A majority of those credentials were given to low income students, according to TCC data.

The college’s focus on underserved communities is especially important for Conrad Heede, a former president of the college’s board of trustees and member of TCC’s philanthropic nonprofit.

“To say that Tarrant County College is an important large economic engine for Tarrant County is really an understatement,” Heede said. “The mission of Tarrant County College, of course, is to provide high quality, easily accessible education and workforce skills training for all kinds of students, so that they can go on to a four-year school or they can start a career.”

Shannon Bryant is TCC’s executive vice president for Corporate Solutions and Economic Development. She also spoke about how TCC forging new partnerships with businesses to provide specialized training for their workers.

Her department acts as a sort of intermediary between business and the college. Employers need skilled workers, and TCC can provide that talent.

However, sometimes employers need to fill a skills gap their workers may have. Bryant used the example of a company bringing in a new piece of equipment that employees will need training on, but don’t necessarily need to go through a rigorous certification process. Instead, TCC can build customized training for the company and get those workers with the skills they need to continue their jobs.

“I always say the community college does two things: We fill the talent pipeline of our regional employers, and we also hope to sustain that pipeline for the long term,” Bryant said.

As TCC helps students and employers, the idea of community college continues to shift. In a post-pandemic world, Bryant believes community colleges are no longer just an undergraduate institution. TCC is essentially becoming a type of graduate school where people who already have degrees attend classes in an attempt to reskill and earn an additional credential or skill set.

This is what a community college does, said LeBlanc, the interim chancellor. TCC gives people skills and knowledge to help move the needle in their lives, she said.

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at jacob.sanchez@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Jacob Sanchez

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise reporter for the Fort Worth Report. His work has appeared in the Temple Daily Telegram, The Texas Tribune and the Texas Observer. He is a graduate of St. Edward’s University.