The four institutions that make up the Quad Innovation Partnership each have very specific concentrations: a community college, a public state university, a small liberal arts private school and a United States military academy. But what they all have in common is the mission to strategically address the workforce needs of Colorado Springs’ businesses by equipping students and recent graduates with community-oriented professional development opportunities. An unprecedented collaboration, the partnership between Pikes Peak Community College, University of Colorado Colorado Springs, Colorado College and the United States Airforce Academy enables participants across a variety of academics to work directly with area businesses and government representatives to ensure they’re helping to address relevant issues throughout all areas of the community.
The value-driven Quad projects are two-fold: they are designed to harness focused, creative and fresh brainpower for a community partner in need while mentoring a young workforce to develop real-world skills while doing so. Upon completion of their projects, Quad students are armed with quantifiable work experience, a first-hand understanding of industry business operations, and most importantly, an ignited investment in their community.
Some examples of past Quad projects include providing a local clothing manufacturer with a profit-driven marketing strategy, creating a product sales and demo package for a tech company and helping to make social services more accessible throughout El Paso County. This summer, in addition to other projects, Quad students will focus on developing solutions for Pikes Peak Community Foundation’s Venetucci Farm, which has been plagued with water contamination issues in recent years.
While the partnership has been steadily growing since its inception in 2014, the last two years have marked significant milestones, including appointing Colorado Springs native and Wesleyan University grad Jacob Eichengreen as executive director and Beka Adair, a Colorado College grad, as assistant director. Last year the organization also announced the opening of the Quad Innovation Center. Located below uber-cool Loyal Coffee in downtown Colorado Springs, the center serves as a home base for the partnership and hosts workshops, speakers, trainings and some of its program classes including the popular paid summer intensive project.
With relatively low risk for participating companies and students, it’s clear that the Quad Innovation Partnership is thinking far outside the box than its name implies. Short-term, community businesses are able to leverage this eager and available workforce to solve complex, yet urgent challenges. Long-term, the partnership is helping to develop an experienced talent pipeline that is more likely to stay in the area upon graduation, which is essential to the growth and innovation within Colorado Spring’s business community.