Collaboration In Education

A meaningful collaboration between Industry and Academia can be an effective tool for bridging unemployment of graduating students.

According to a World Bank report, mismatch in skills demand is one of the main reasons for low graduate employment– what employers want may not be what our students have to offer. A majority of surveyed companies agreed that fresh graduates lack relevant technical knowledge, necessary soft skills, creativity, communication and critical thinking ability. The business world is changing rapidly. University curriculum needs to be relevant to the industry not only for today but for the future.

Industry and Academia are two most important pillars of an economy. Effective collaboration between them is critical for skills development, the generation, acquisition, application and adoption of knowledge and the promotion of employment and entrepreneurship. However, successful industry-academia collaboration needs to support the missions and motivations of each partner. For academia, typical motivations to collaborate with industry include the improvement of teaching, access to funding, reputation enhancement, and access to empirical data from industry. For firms, the motivations to collaborate with academia may include gaining access to complementary knowledge, tapping into a pool of skilled workers, providing training to existing or future employees, gaining access to the university’s facilities, equipment, and incentives. Through the implementation of an effective apprenticeship model, the two pillars can collaborate further so as to provide a hands-on learning experience to the students and at the same time providing a steady pipeline of well-trained candidates to the industry. 

For the majority of firms, the most important link to a university is through recruitment of skilled graduates. A strong collaboration of universities with industry can help improve the quality of graduating students in the country. A first step is to establish a consultative process whereby the voice of relevant business managers is considered in curriculum development so that university programs better respond to industry needs. There are evident tangible benefits of employer and university collaborating to design a course that would give students workplace skills along with the critical thinking and study skills gained from a university course.

An effective apprenticeship program with active participation of the industry can improve employment possibilities and broaden the career paths of young students. Combining a full degree with the real, practical skills gained in the workplace makes these apprentices highly employable. The students get the opportunity to experience the real world of business and they get a first-hand look at the process, gaining valuable knowledge and experience that employers seek in future employees. Moreover, the stipend earned by the student during the said apprenticeship subsidizes the cost of education to a large extent.

One of the important outcomes of this collaboration shall result in students getting jobs, often with the universities’ partner companies. Companies—who don’t have the time themselves to incubate ideas—are vying for graduates who have the pulse on emerging markets. And, through the apprenticeship program, they’ve mentored students, who are acquiring expertise long before they’re employees. 

This pipeline from student to employee is also powerful PR for universities. When companies quickly scoop up these graduates, universities can point to the strength of their faculty and programs. Strong job placement numbers are enticing to prospective students—and assures other possible corporate partners that their talent pool is deep.

Companies, on the other hand, are hungry for ideas, and the actual technologies and intellectual properties to commercialize those ideas. And, companies are hungry for talent. Having worked with the companies during their educative years, they are better prepared to start working at these companies after their graduation. Universities provide the earliest look at where the next big idea will come from. Companies who are aligned with early-stage research see early signals of what’s going to be the next big opportunity, and they get a head start on the competition.

While universities and industry enjoy a symbiotic relationship, society also benefits from a trained workforce answering today’s most pressing challenges and creating technology to improve lives. Students are going to become trained in highly skilled industrial applications, and they are going to be impacting the economy by creating a workforce that is relevant to those areas of national interest and industrial interest. 

India has suffered for too long from a one-size-fits-all approach to higher education. This synergy between the discovery-driven culture of the university with the innovation-driven environment of an industry is what is needed to change the fate of our graduates. We need to quickly move from academia operating in isolation to the quadruple helix of academia, industry, Government, and local communities, coming together in partnership for the incubation, development, and commercialization of ideas – by this, we shall create the India of tomorrow.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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