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How to incorporate community colleges into your recruiting program

Community and technical colleges represent a growing student population in Handshake’s network–and a crucial talent supply pipeline for your workforce.

A cost-effective alternative or step into higher education, community colleges serve around 38% of all students in the US today. With a growing number of community colleges on Handshake, learn how recruiting early talent from this pool will connect you with students who represent a mosaic of socioeconomic backgrounds, skills, and languages spoken.

Why you should recruit from community colleges on Handshake

Recruiting community college students on Handshake is a meaningful action your company can take to bring critical skills, diversity, and talent to your workforce.

Community colleges and trade schools are at the forefront of in-demand, STEM, and “new collar” skills training

A common misperception is that community colleges don’t offer the same recruiting advantages as 4-year universities. Did you know that 43% of community college students on Handshake have a STEM major?

Students in community college are frequently training in specialized hard skills or technical skills. For example: if you’re looking for technicians, welders, dental assistants, or IT helpdesk associates, community and technical colleges often have curricula dedicated to these and many more technical career tracks.

Top 5 industries receiving the most applications from community college students on Handshake:

1. Technology

2. Education

3. Financial services

4. Healthcare

5. Government/Law/Politics

Recruiting tip:

Consider weighting skills and aptitudes more heavily than credentials. Skills-based hiring tactics include eliminating GPA, major, and school from your candidate searches, and using skills to filter for talent instead.

Partnering with community colleges is a systemic way to build pipeline for harder to fill roles in your location/s

If you’re in a suburban or rural area, you may feel the pain of attracting talent to your location. Partnering with local community colleges can be a strategic way for you to source talent who are already nearby.

Community colleges are eager to partner with employers on local, regional, and broader industry insights from your region to create demand-driven curricula—a win-win-win for community colleges, students, and employers. This is particularly relevant for more technical roles that require specialized schooling or experience. Partnering to create demand-driven experiential learning creates a strong regional feedback loop to supply local economies with the talent they need to thrive.

Recruiting tip:

Build your brand in the classroom. Sponsor equipment or trade workshops, run an industry-specific class project, or host apprenticeships that community college students can put on their resume. These skill-building opportunities can endear a student to your company’s brand and mission, and help them stand out once they’re ready to apply.

Recruiting from community colleges is a critical component of any sustainable DEI strategy

Handshake survey data has found that students from underrepresented groups are less likely to benefit from established professional networks. For example, while 24% of white students have many people in their network who can help them identify a career path, the same is true for only 17% of Black students, 15% of Hispanic/Latine students, and 13% of Asian students.1

On Handshake, 44% of community college students identify as Black, Latine, Native American, or two or more races.

According to Opportunity America, a think tank focused on economic mobility, around one in three community college students are first generation college students. English language learners are more likely to attend community college than a four-year institution, along with students who are low-income, veterans, and other underrepresented groups.

Early talent is where workforce diversification starts. Create pipelines with upward mobility within your company. Recruiting community college students on Handshake is a meaningful action your company can take to bring critical skills and diversity to your workforce.

Recruiting tip:

Be conscious of the “confidence gap” and signal openness to community college students. Every school is full of students with skills and capabilities and community colleges are no exception, offering quality, affordable, and accessible education to students of all types of backgrounds. However, community college students have concerns about being perceived as less qualified by employers.

Early talent who attend community colleges can offer work experience

Around 80% of students in community college also work. With proven soft skills like communication, organization, and leadership, consider that community college students are often job ready and familiar with workplace norms, commuting, and navigating challenges. However, these skills may not be reflected on their resumes, so look beyond the bullet points.

Recruiting tip:

Revisit job qualifications to open up access. Learn more about why filtering on "years of experience" can screen out early talent with cutting edge tech skills.

Tips for recruiting from community colleges on Handshake

  • Write inclusive job descriptions. Use language like “Associates degrees welcome,” etc. and avoid language like “those working toward a Bachelor’s degree” or mention of “juniors and seniors,” which speaks to a 4-year university student audience and can exclude community college students.
  • Expand your sourcing criteria. Include community colleges and technical schools in your student searches. Learn more about search filters on Handshake.
  • Offer internships. Unpaid internships are a privilege that many students can’t afford. Paid internships create a more equitable environment across the board and show your workplace's commitment to the wellbeing of your entry-level workers, no matter their background.
  • Develop new school partnerships. Use Handshake to build relationships with community colleges as one way to diversify your qualified talent pool.
  • Partner with career centers. While many students aren’t sure where to start in their job search, students who are first generation and/or conducting their first professional job search in the US would benefit from exposure to career paths they might not be aware of.
  • Provide hybrid recruiting options. Especially for students who are balancing school and work, virtual or hybrid events and interviews are more flexible and equitable to ensure all types of students can access opportunities.
  • Ensure students have technical accommodations. Set students up for success ahead of events and interviews. Christine Cruzvergara, Handshake’s Chief Education Strategy Officer, said it best: “Even if students don’t have a great [internet] connection, and they’re not able to participate in a full event or have their video on, they can still answer a message.”
  • Involve employees across the business in the recruiting process. When students can hear from former community college grads, former interns, line of business experts, or diverse leadership, it’s foundational to their sense of belonging in your culture to learn how people from a range of backgrounds have navigated their college to career journeys!

Expanding access to opportunity for community college students

The federal government has highlighted the need for more investment to reskill America by partnering with community colleges. Using Handshake to engage with community college students nationwide and create diverse and talented pipelines is a crucial action toward closing the opportunity gap.

Get more data on Handshake's growing network of community colleges.


  1. Handshake pulse survey, Q1 2024 | N = 1073

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