Align Business School Content With Corporate Initiatives To Enhance Learning

Companies expect customized learning to develop specific skill sets, insights, and competencies critical to driving the capabilities of their business, where learning is seamlessly integrated with performance.

Today, in the employment market, the demand for skills and decision-making capabilities prevails over basic qualifications or IQ. Employers are focusing more on the skills of their workforce, and hence students should focus on taking up courses that are a combination of both theory as well as on-ground training, to help them get and retain jobs. To further augment this trend, educational institutions have been partnering with industry bodies and corporates to re-align their learning ecosystems and produce a job-ready workforce.

Business schools that are considering strengthening their industry partnerships to facilitate student “employability”, need to first focus on their faculty. Gone are the days when higher-education teachers were life-long professions. Today, faculty that is trained by corporates on a regular basis, or preferably have industry working experience, are more valued than their traditional counterparts. It is imperative for faculty to be able to adapt and seamlessly align their content with industry needs, and other internal and external service providers.

The emphasis then needs to move to learn modules that prepare students with work-ready skills, to help them deal with real-life issues in their potential working fields. There needs to be more application or lab-based/simulations to understand the dynamics of real working issues – such as how to build profitable growth within your company. Students need to “act” out such a given problem while assuming different roles in a group to find solutions then and there. These exercises are to assess and build working skills within the students such as networking, collaboration/partnerships, communication, critical thinking, problem-solving, and team building – all of which cannot be taught as theory or as case studies.

Employer establishments will be the new classrooms. So internships too play a big role in shaping working skills and understanding business scenarios. Unfortunately, in India, these opportunities are often taken lightly, with students opting for an internship just to obtain a “stamp” on their resumes. Students are invariably not counseled well at their learning institutions or do not really know what kind of job they wish to take up in the future, and their internships are therefore not formal or targeted. The principle of “learning by doing” and “earning while learning” has been tried and tested to create employable resources across the world. Germany is the best-case example where apprenticeship is an integral part of the education system. 

Industry and business schools should organize various joint forums to get different perspectives from professionals from non-competing companies, which will also facilitate regular interaction among peers. Technology will play a crucial role in this by enabling digital and virtual classrooms or holding webinars, which will make learning more flexible, customized, highly accessible and cost-effective. 

Today, it is pivotal for education to be linked to employment to make it more relevant and create job-ready candidates. Universities are already designing customized programs with inputs from employers to make them relevant to that organization and to the industry. Further, this will also help candidates develop cognitive skills, which employers dedicatedly look out for. Initially, industry-linked programs mainly covered the manufacturing and information technology sectors, but with the changing ecosystem, they are relevant today for nontechnical streams like retail, healthcare, logistics, finance, human resources, etc. as well. 

Even after beginning one’s career path, consistent skill training is fundamental for candidates to remain employable. To stay ahead of the curve, it is imperative that candidates constantly skill themselves. Many employers today facilitate skill training for both existing and new employees in order to sustain a highly employable talent pool – either through internal, or external resources such as business schools or consultants.

Needless to say, steps are being taken in India in this direction. A recent directive has been issued for engineering students to also study the Indian Constitution, Culture, Humanities, Social Sciences, and Environmental Sciences, including Management. More than 3,000 engineering colleges across the country will adopt the new curriculum. Under the revised syllabus, theoretical classes will be brought down from 30 to 20 every week and will provide final-semester students with more time to work on actual projects to understand industry requirements. These additions are part of the model curriculum the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the regulatory body for technical education in the country, has notified for undergraduate courses in engineering. It has finally dawned on the sector that unless students understand society (target markets) and its challenges, they will not be able to produce applications or solutions with societal benefits.

In conclusion, now is the time for business schools to adapt their offerings to the needs of corporations and be better at producing leaders. They need to come up with a radically different strategy to compete with professional service firms. For example, given the increasing number of women professionals, they need to increase the percentage of women among students, faculty, and deans. Schools also need to show a keen interest in evaluating or ensuring whether the intended learning from a program or course is being effectively applied back on the job.

Companies expect customized learning to develop specific skill sets, insights, and competencies critical to driving the capabilities of their business, where learning is seamlessly integrated with performance. For some time now, corporates themselves are setting up internal talent management "centers of excellence" as the evolving needs of large organizations are beginning to outstrip the capabilities of many business schools.

Finally, globally, the way we work is changing. With 70% of jobs facing uncertainty, it will be employees with a mix of technical and soft skills that succeed. Thus business schools will have to stay ahead of the curve and adopt mechanisms and learning models, in partnership with industry. This will help students to fine-tune their “employable” skills and make them ready to take on the opportunities the eco-system has to offer.

This article was published in BW Education issue dated 'Nov. 20, 2018' with cover story titled 'BW Education Issue Nov-Dec 2018'

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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