Universities and the private sector: parallel worlds in search of synergy.
It is only when you go back to your old home that you notice how much things have changed, and how other things stay the same. I went back to my alma mater; it was a hot afternoon in May when I walked slowly onto what had once been a campus for students, determined to make the most of my meeting with the academic committee. In the end, the meeting went well, but I couldn’t help but notice a serious disconnect between the two worlds that are part of my life story: the university and the business world.
Intrinsically connected worlds, but apparently distinct. How can education and the corporate world be so far apart? After all, major corporations could be thought of as the major catalyst of talents, which are prepared by universities. It would be natural for both protagonists to work hand-in-hand; but unfortunately that doesn’t happen.
To my surprise, I found a large student community in search of more and better opportunities to connect with the private sector, spaces capable of offering them “advice” that can ensure them a faster and better hiring process in the corporate world when they finish their studies.
Unfortunately, behavioral skills have still not been incorporated into the curriculum. Universities, in large part, teach technical disciplines, but not behavioral disciplines. What do I mean with this term? Skills including communication, sales, empathy, customer service, responsibility, and leadership training, among others.
With the technological revolution and the internet, it has become easier to access information and brief online courses, which are often focused on elements of technical skills. What about behavioral skills? Might it be possible, for example, to learn to inspire someone by watching a 10-minute tutorial on YouTube?
According to a study from the University of Alicante, “most academic directors and professionals frequently make decisions based on their intuition, prior experience, and common sense; or based on informal sources of knowledge, without a relation with the results that research may have identified regarding the efficacy of their decisions.” This is how programs of study are defined, and how decisions are made on the themes and courses that students should study.
I have 17 years of experience in the corporate world, and I can guarantee that the companies of the future need people with strong behavioral skills: people who are proactive, leaders, capable of learning, and resilient, among others.
How do universities deal with these attributes? When can you have an effective discussion with a company about how to identify the areas that need work, so students graduate with the best possible skillset?
It seems like, to be capable or competitive enough in this corporate world, you need more than just a complete career, you also need “something extra.” According to one study in El Tiempo, “the strange thing is that the world of graduate students is more certain, and closer to reality, than to careers themselves, because they focus on teaching executable techniques, rather than general theory, allowing professionals to quickly acquire new skills that fit their businesses or careers.”
Why is this the case? Universities worldwide are disconnected from the so-called “real world” and continue to establish their educational practices based on theory, with traditional classroom lectures, theoretical exercises, moving further and further away from daily life; fortunately some institutions have understood this situation and “escaped the trap,” and are working with companies that are committed to encouraging new programs that develop these kinds of skills. At everis, we recognize that this is necessary, which is why we have created partnerships with leading universities in their respective research areas, with the objective of creating spaces that truly encourage the adoption of these skills. Additionally, in order to contribute to the professional development of young students, we make the knowledge of our consultants available to them, offering expertise in different areas of technology and business, to draw them closer to the reality of today’s corporate world, which is increasingly competitive and in need of people with a wide range of skills.
It is urgent, and more than necessary, for universities and for those who are responsible for attracting talent to companies to have an intimate discussion and “put their cards on the table,” to identify the new skills and mindsets that future professionals need in order to take on their respective roles and responsibilities more effectively. At the moment, I don’t think it is enough to know only the “what,” (technical knowledge); we must also worry about the “how,” have the behavioral skills needed to make a difference in our companies, our society, and our world.