Education and Corporations - A New Partnership

We all know that companies compete fiercely to stay ahead of the technological curve. We can’t always afford to hire employees who need extensive training and skills development. At this lightning-fast pace of change, how well are our recent graduates being prepared for the world of work?

Unfortunately, it appears educational institutions are lagging behind.

In its “Great Jobs, Great Lives” study, Gallup recently researched how well America is preparing its students for a productive work life. In short, Gallup found that 98% of chief academic officers at colleges and universities say they are “confident they are preparing students” for success in the workplace. Yet, “only 11 percent of C-level business executives (i.e. employers) strongly agree” that graduates have the skills they are seeking.

Although this is an alarming disparity, other studies parallel Gallup’s findings.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses found in 2017 that 45% of business owners could not find qualified candidates. Moreover, when 3,000 corporate leaders from 25 countries were surveyed as part of General Electric’s Global Innovation Barometer, their top concern was “a need to better align the education system with business needs.” This begins to outline the serious issues that contribute to America’s growing skills gap.

So I ask, how can corporations and schools partner? How could a deeper relationship benefit both?

Gallup’s study concluded that students were twice as likely to be engaged in their work and have a sense of well-being later in life if they had several experiences while in school:

  1. the one-on-one attention from an adult to encourage goals and dreams, and
  2. an ability to apply learning to a long-term project while in the classroom.

I suggest that these findings warrant a newly defined partnership between schools and employers – a partnership that gives students a unique advantage as they transition to the world of work – a partnership that gives corporations more qualified applicants, and an enriched community of productive and employed youth.

Consider, for example, the Project Based Mentorship® model Accenture has developed based on the book, Teach to Work. Accenture pro-actively engages with 16 non-profit partners, where employees are sent to teach skills the company is not otherwise finding. In the case of Kipp schools, students are mentored side-by-side with Accenture employees while on consulting assignments. Students are given the opportunity to collaborate, experience work culture, participate in real-world problems and solutions, and present findings alongside professionals. Students find incredible new motivation, connecting dots from the classroom to real world experiences, all the while learning new technological skills. Amen.

How is Partnering through Mentorship a “Win” for each Constituency?

A win for corporations.
  • Corporate social responsibility trends in mentoring find a growth of skilled applicants, robust pipeline, and new interest in technology
  • Millennials prefer to work at do-good companies, stay longer, find greater loyalty
  • Retirees become ambassadors for company, volunteer in their field of knowledge
  • HR finds mentorship teaches leadership, management training, confidence
  • Community good will is a win for schools
  • Schools enjoy a corporate liaison and increased donor / alumni engagement
  • Pathway from mentorship, to internship, to job
  • Students have higher placement ratios, stronger skills, and higher rankings
A win for students.
  • Project Based Mentorship ®, real world experience on resume (completed project)
  • Learn master planning, critical thinking, communications, grit
  • Connecting dots from education to real world
  • Intergenerational collaboration, industry language, and professionalism
A win for the cities.
  • Economic development, trained employees
  • New industry interest in relocation to city
  • More jobs growth

There are numerous reasons to rethink how corporations might engage with educators and help train their future employees. Business leaders need only to tap into their own wheelhouse of knowledge, marry them in educational partnerships around project-based mentoring ®, and in so doing provide opportunities that changes lives. Who better to help close the skills gap than the employers themselves?