Why Universities Need to Connect Students with Businesses
Author: Kristina Proffitt
5th December 2017
When I was a student in the late 2000s, several of my friends had to do placements or sandwich years. They received no guidance or advice on how to find somewhere from their universities. They were told to find somewhere, or fail. No exceptions.
I’ve spoken to many others who had to do sandwich years since then, and most of them experienced the same lack of guidance from their university.
Our student years are where we find ourselves. Many of us meet friends – or even partners – for life. We learn what our strengths are, and what we need to improve on. The more guidance we receive during this time, the faster we’ll grow and the better the chances we’ll have.
One of the best ways to grow is with a mentor. Spending time with someone who’s been in the same or a similar situation to yours means that you can learn from their successes and failures.
If a person or place doesn’t help us to learn or grow, it can leave us feeling disheartened. We can lose enthusiasm for our chosen career or industry, and end up going in a completely different direction.
Finding the right person or place, on the other hand, means you’ll thrive. You’ll feel inspired. It won’t feel like work. You’ll get paid to do something that you love. This means you’ll work harder and get further. And you’ll be happier, because you’re doing something that matters to you.
Why connect students with businesses?
Students are often left to find connections themselves – as demonstrated above – but when you’re just starting out in your career, you don’t know where to look. You need someone to at least point you in the right direction.
According to the Harvard Business Review, two thirds of graduates struggle to launch their careers. Offering students the opportunity to connect with businesses helps to prevent this from happening. The hardest part of job seeking is getting your foot in the door. When you help students to get past this, they’re happier in their student lives and go on to become better prepared for the real world.
This preparation for the real world makes a huge difference. It helps to prevent graduates from becoming unemployed or falling into jobs completely unrelated to their area of study when they graduate.
In 2013 (the most recent statistics we could find), 73% of graduates worked in a job unrelated to their major. Some of this is bound to be because studying something can put you off your chosen field, or because you find something that you love more, but for many people – particularly those that study more creative subjects – it can be tough to know where to begin. Once you’ve taken those key first steps, the rest of the staircase, while still steep, is a lot easier to climb.
What’s in it for universities?
While there’s no doubt that connecting students to businesses is beneficial to them, why does it matter to the universities? Forging these relationships is often a costly and time-consuming process. Why should they make the investment?
It’s a university’s job to serve their students. Students are as much customers as they are students. If they’re not happy with the service that they receive, they’re fully within their right to make a complaint or to take their money elsewhere. During my time at university, I saw many people leave because they weren’t happy with the way they were being taught, or with the university itself. It’s important that students learn autonomy and independence at university, but there’s a big difference between teaching them these skills and giving them no guidance.
Universities are businesses. Their culture is a huge part of the experience they offer to students and potential students. These cultures are influenced by the dean right down to the teachers and the people serving lunch. In order to foster the right culture, it’s the job of everyone involved to create a supportive, welcoming atmosphere that always strives to keep learning.
It shouldn’t be a case of severing ties as soon as someone graduates. Offering graduate programs helps universities to stand out from their competitors. It also gives them a proven track record of employability. Presenting future students with evidence about what past students have achieved – in the form of statistics or testimonials, for example – makes courses and universities more desirable because they act as proof that they can deliver on their promises. This means universities will attract more students and can charge more for the education that they provide.
What about businesses?
There’s a talent shortage. You know it, I know it. This makes it more difficult for businesses to find the right person for a role, and increases the time to hire. This has a huge knock-on effect on productivity and makes the hiring process more expensive.
By forming relationships with students early on, businesses can speed up the hiring process and make better-informed decisions. This creates a better experience for candidates, and means businesses are more likely to hire the best candidates.
They can go on to create long-term relationships, too. Some students who take part in internships during their time at university can return to the business as a paid employee when they graduate. Because they’ve worked with the business before, they’re already familiar with the work environment and the people within the team. This streamlines the onboarding process and saves the business money.
When businesses are connected to universities, they have a ready-made pool of talent filled with exactly the type of people that they need. Working with universities, they can guide students to develop the skills that they need to form a partnership. Teachers can also use this relationship to better tailor the course to the industry, and always keep informed of the latest trends.
Whether you’re a business, university, or student, there are numerous positives to connecting students and businesses. It makes everyone’s work lives happier and more productive, saves the inevitable ‘what now?’ that most graduates face, and gives universities an advantage over their competitors.
Date: 5th December 2017 | Category: Edtech