By Betsy McIntyre

Director, Tristate Energy and Advanced Manufacturing Consortium

I have had the privilege of working with many partnerships over the years. Each has been similar in terms of purpose (workforce development) and structure (with public and private partners), but each has been unique in the makeup of personalities and expertise, and in level of commitment to reaching shared goals.

One thing has been consistent though: I am a regular witness to the spirit of “coopetition,” with institutions that normally compete against each other cooperating to bring better or faster results, or to bring in more resources than could be secured alone. It can be tempting for me to want to take charge of the conversation, and advise on how I think things should move ahead. But then I am reminded that the best and most lasting solutions come from the partners themselves, and happen organically.

I recently saw a group of our partners demonstrate this perfectly. In a conversation among college partners, a colleague was beginning to panic that all of the courses that others were talking about sharing across the region were not even offered at his institution. Without any prompting from me, a competitor offered that he need not worry; all colleges would be sharing what they had. “That is why we are working together—to fill the gaps in each other’s programs so that students can find what they need.” All others in the room agreed. It was a simple but powerful example of partnership in action.

As Simon Sinek once said, “When we tell people to do their jobs, we get workers. When we trust them to get the job done, we get leaders.” In an environment where trust has been nurtured, and where there is a clear and common sense of purpose—partners will come together in clever and unexpected ways. If we let them.

Betsy McIntyre is director of the Tristate Energy and Advanced Manufacturing (TEAM) Consortium, a workforce partnership in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. TEAM is co-chaired by Chevron and the Community College of Beaver County, and funded by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and the Appalachian Regional Commission.