From Students To Employees
How can cooperation between higher education and business provide graduates with better pathways to employment?
For today’s employers, an academic degree is no longer enough. Graduates are increasingly expected to be knowledgeable, skilled and experienced, ready for their professional career. The responsibility for this employment readiness is justifiably being placed on universities to provide them with more relevant higher education.
In the face of ongoing change, universities are being called to take a stronger role in developing future workforce and building a highly skilled human capital. The issue is however not the number of graduates, but their skills and competences, which are increasingly being measured through employability metrics and new jobs created.
Today, like never before, it is essential for higher education institutions (HEIs) to better attune themselves to the needs of both students and their future employers. In a practical sense then, the question arises: what can universities do to ensure that their students are well equipped with practical knowledge and skills and are capable of meeting demands of a tough job market?
Being seen as one of the central challenges for Europe, a so-called ‘skills mismatch’ can be addressed through the systematic cooperation between universities and employers. Through university-business cooperation (UBC) HEIs become increasingly capable of translating education into meaningful competences for the workplace and providing smooth transfer of graduates from “students” status to “employees”.
Management Center Innsbruck is a strategic partner for employers
To ensure the relevance of its education, Management Center Innsbruck (MCI) approaches employer-engagement and business partnerships very strategically. Founded in 1995 as an autonomous academic spin-off of the University of Innsbruck in Austria, MCI systematically engages with employers to improve teaching and enhance student employability.
But how exactly does MCI cooperate with its business partners? On a practical level, the institution strongly focuses on a collaborative curriculum design and its delivery as well as mobility of students.
Uniquely at MCI however, not only does this occur throughout the life of its degree and post-degree programmes, but also, during the programme intake and following the end of programme. This therefore involves specifically-chosen industry representatives who are invited into MCI as partners in the development and delivery of the teaching programmes.
As an example, in the case of the Medical Engineering programme, MCI involves professionals from hospitals, the IT sector and medical engineering companies in course-design and delivery. Furthermore, they are also systemically involved in the student admission process, helping to select students who are more likely to fit the profile of the employer, and introducing students to a ‘employment-like’ recruitment process. The professionals are then often employed as part-time lecturers.
A further key aspect underpinning their employer-aligned programmes, is the recruitment of professionals from industry to become valuable faculty members. 300 internal MCI faculty and complemented by more than 800 external faculty members ensuring that significant material is being delivered directly from professionals in-practice.
These professionals integrate their business problems into courses, execute student-business projects, offer internship opportunities and facilitate the organisation of networking events with industry actors. This initiative has the benefit of ensuring that the curriculum is inevitably aligned with the needs of the industry, generates a more direct path for students to employment, whilst benefiting businesses by providing opportunities scout and win top student talent and developing graduates who are job-ready.
As for student mobility and placement, MCI has established a special administrative unit – the MCI Career Center – which acts as an interface and interaction point between students and graduates, on one side, and potential future employers, on another. To make the screening and communication process for the companies easier and more efficient, MCI provides them with a “Career Partnership” platform for posting job and career opportunities for students.
MCI’s impact on employability
The institution’s strong focus on practical relevance and its commitment to close collaboration with the business community helps to ensure that MCI graduates will become job-ready employees for the labour market due to their combined academic knowledge and work-oriented skills.
One of the indications that MCI education creates an impact on graduates’ careers is that the average graduate receives 2.15 job offers at the time of his or her graduation from MCI, whilst 91.6% of MCI graduates have a job within three months after graduation. Furthermore, substantial salary increases and noticeable career progression for MCI graduates highlight the impact of MCI’s education on their successful career paths.
More information about the MCI’s case you find here: https://ub-cooperation.eu/index/casestudies
Meet the authors
Affiliated with the Science-to-Business Marketing Research Centre (S2BMRC) at Münster University of Applied Sciences (MUAS) in Germany, Balzhan Orazbayeva researches university-business collaboration and knowledge transfer processes. She is a researcher in the consulting project for the European Commission (DG Education and Culture), implementing the largest European study in the area of university-business collaboration. She is the capacity building designer and researcher for the Erasmus Plus project, aiming to establish a long lasting Knowledge Alliance between academy and industry and to produce an educational toolkit for trainers to raise strategic e-Leadership skills. Balzhan also coordinates industry projects executed by students as part of International Marketing and Strategic Marketing modules at MUAS. Her research interests include university-industry relationships, higher education, knowledge management and transfer, cross-cultural communication and intercultural competence. Balzhan is a doctoral candidate and focuses in her PhD on higher education in the context of university-business collaboration. She holds a Bachelor degree on International Relations in a field of political and social sciences from German-Kazakh University (DKU) in Almaty, Kazakhstan. In addition, she holds a Master degree on Integrative Project Management from International Institute (IHI) Zittau, a central academic unit of Dresden University of Technology (TUD) in Germany.