University Engagement in Real World Job Creation and Partnerships

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University Engagement in Real World Job Creation and Partnerships

August 28, 2012

Focusing Faculty on External Relationships

Most states are engaged in aggressive economic development and are looking for ways to stimulate partnerships between universities and business and industry.  Chris Widener, state senator for Ohio, said “that the #1 priority for Ohio is job creation.” He also commented further about the significant role higher education must play to actively stimulate job growth through education and training.

As I have interacted with business leaders, they have emphasized that colleges and universities must be active partners in developing a trained workforce which has the skill set to solve problems not yet faced by the corporate world.  As I listen to the needs of our corporate partners, it has become clear that higher education leaders need to transform the academy to be outward focused to play an active role in preparing a highly skilled workforce.

This deliberate attempt to move the faculty to an outward focus will produce the following benefits for the university and the economy:

  1. A more relevant curriculum.
  2. The development and delivery of needed education and training programs.
  3. The creation of new jobs.

So my question is “how can higher education leaders redefine the role of faculty to engage the corporate and professional world?”

Four ways to engage faculty in external relationships:

  1. Form advisory councils for various disciplines of the university populating them with active professionals from healthcare, business, industry, etc.

    Develop agendas that foster the following:
    • Forecast economic trends.
    • Predict workforce needs.
    • Learn future skill sets needed.
    • Determine future professional training programs needed.
  2. Form partnerships with business, industry and government leaders to promote collaboration, workforce planning, economic development, job creation, etc.

    Establish partnership clusters to do the following:
    • Identify professional training needs.
    • Emphasize development of education programs and internship programs which create jobs and fuel economic growth.
    • Focus on stimulating economic growth through incubator development.
  3. Redefine position descriptions of academic leaders and faculty to allot time for external focus, involvement and collaboration.
    • Be deliberate to carve out time for academic leaders and faculty to engage in real world job creation and research.
    • Evaluations should be tied to outcomes showing job creation and economic growth.
    • Incentives and salary increases should be given to reward external collaboration.
  4. Promote faculty global engagement through a variety of international experiences involving teaching, partnering, and collaborating with universities and corporations in another culture.
    • Find U.S. corporations with plants/offices in other countries to form global partnerships.
    • Form partnerships including student and faculty exchanges with mission compatible universities in other countries.

There is an opportunity today for universities to have a more direct impact on the future improvement of our economy.  The use of faculty experts as consultants to stimulate interaction between the academy and the corporate world is needed, but it will not happen in a major way unless university academic leaders take steps to position the academy to be engaged.

This opportunity is not just going to benefit our economy and business and industry, but will also make higher education more responsive and relevant through practical changes in curriculum and learning outcomes. Moves to enable faculty to be more engaged in external partnerships will only stimulate excellence and improvements in higher education.