My September 27 blog, Leveraging University Education into Careers for the New Economy, suggested how college students can structure or supplement their coursework to make them more attractive to potential employers. Many of these approaches, such as selecting appropriate majors and minors, independent study programs and thesis topics and developing strong social networking competencies, are generally within students’ own control. (Even these approaches, however, are dependent on the college/universities’ ability to fund these classes—a condition that can no longer be assumed.)
However, while many of the requirements for creating university experiences that will better prepare students for the knowledge jobs of the future are within the control of students, many others will depend on proactive efforts by the colleges. These include:
- The teaching of math, statistics and the use of IT tools as core academic offerings and the deep integration of these tools into all coursework;
- An increasingly interdisciplinary design and delivery of courses; and
- Availability of proactive career counseling to help students identify career options, career pathways and the types of work that will best prepare students for opportunities in their chosen fields.
Unfortunately, many of these changes are totally antithetical to many universities’ organizational structures and cultures. For example, as I discussed in my previous blog, most universities are organized in discrete stovepipes that implicitly discourage cross-disciplinary collaboration. Professors, meanwhile, are typically hired and rewarded on the basis of their depth of knowledge in their particular specialty (rather than as interdisciplinary thinkers) and many consciously shun practical applications of their work and involvement of corporations in tuning curricula. On the other hand, most university career centers are culturally attuned to these objectives. However, they often lack the number of career counselors and the degree of interaction with the companies most likely to hire their graduates.
What’s a university to do? How can it overcome the inherent challenges of culture, tenure and a lack of resources to provide their students with the help required to prepare them for the careers of the future?
One approach is for universities to actively solicit the help of corporations that are in a position to hire graduates. Many corporations already have large, well established and very active university relationship programs. Some, such as JP Morgan Chase and Wal-Mart, help universities (Syracuse University http://globaltech.syr.edu/ and the Universities of Arkansas and Arizona respectively http://sustainability.uark.edu/15347.php) develop and fund programs under which the university creates and teaches courses and conducts research that are aligned to the company’s needs, and the companies provides internships and job opportunities for selected graduates.
But while all type of companies in virtually every industry offer programs to help universities prepare students for new jobs, as explained in my September 5 blog, The IT Vendor’s Employee Readiness Burden, I believe that IT vendors are particularly well suited to help. Why? Through their products and practices, these vendors are playing disproportionately large roles in shaping the environments in which tomorrow’s graduates will work. These vendors, for example, are developing the technologies that will redefine the nature of knowledge work and pioneering practices, such as globalization and seamless collaboration that will determine the type of students who will be best suited for different types of work. Just as importantly, IT vendors will also have some of the first and greatest needs for graduates with these new skills.
I recently wrote a report (IBM’s Role in Creating the Workforce of the Future) which talks about how IT vendors are helping universities in a myriad of ways. I’ll also continue to follow this topic in future blogs.