If you're looking to upskill your workforce, then it may be time to explore collaboration options with a reputable university. By understanding the various advantages of university–industry ties, you can make informed decisions for your own business.

Bridging the Gap Between Theory and Practice

Educational partnerships make it possible for learners to bridge the gap between what they're learning in the classroom and how they would apply it in the real world.

Application of Classroom Knowledge

Oftentimes, learners involved in an educational partnership find they’re able to start applying what they learned in the classroom directly to their roles in the workplace. When they get a chance to actually practice theory, it's easier to grasp and understand. This practical application of theoretical knowledge improves learning outcomes and ensures that employees have opportunities to use what they've learned in the real-world. This can lead to more innovation within the workplace. When employees see theories and concepts in practice, their understanding of the industry is more well-rounded, and they can come up with some remarkable ideas.

Enhanced Learning for Students

Students stand to benefit greatly from exposure to real-world applications and industry challenges. When businesses collaborate with schools to provide a more practical experience, this enhances the learning experience and yields better outcomes. Also, many educational partnerships result in exciting internship and co-op opportunities for students.

Driving Innovation through Access to Industry Expertise

Across the globe, there is constant demand for new ideas and innovations. This is true in every industry. When schools and businesses work together, it's possible to drive innovation to solve problems with creative solutions.

Learners in programs with university–industry academic partnerships—including adjunct faculty and guest speakers from industry, mentors, and advisory board members’ insights into program development—could enjoy expanded access to industry expertise. By collaborating with well-known names and leaders in their respective industries, students get to tap into these industry professionals’ wealth of knowledge and experience. As a result, they can better understand the nuances of the industry before even finishing their studies, offering a competitive edge when they get started in the field.

As mentioned above, academic partnerships sometimes take the shape of mentorship or advisory roles for industry professionals. By having an advisory board member role within a university, industry leaders can shape and improve curricula and academic programs to better prepare students for successful careers. On the mentorship side, students in formal mentor programs are exposed to once-in-a-lifetime mentorship opportunities. Industry mentorship for students provides personalized guidance and career advancement that cannot be achieved in a classroom setting alone.

Economic Growth and Job Creation

Is economic development through education possible? Time after time, academic partnerships have proven that it is. Strong academic partnerships between schools and businesses can help stimulate local economics and develop a more skilled workforce.

Strengthening Local Economy

It is not uncommon for university collaborations to inspire the establishment of startups and new businesses, especially after students complete their respective programs and are ready to put their newfound knowledge to work.

When this occurs, new organization leaders can directly strengthen the local economy by creating job opportunities for other students and the local communities. New job opportunities from university–industry ties can provide jobs and growth that would not otherwise exist. In some cases, students may go on to become owners of competing local businesses, which can drive innovation and boost job growth even further.

Development of a Skilled Workforce

University–industry partnerships are increasingly focusing on upskilling current employees to bridge the skill gaps in the workforce. These collaborations are creating tailored programs that provide existing employees with the advanced skills and knowledge necessary to excel in their evolving roles. By investing in the continuous development of their workforce, companies are proactively addressing the skill shortages that challenge industry growth and productivity.

Recent studies, such as one by McKinsey & Company, indicate that nearly 87% of executives are currently experiencing skill gaps in their workforce or expect them within a few years. Another report by Deloitte highlights the critical need for continuous learning opportunities in the workplace to keep pace with rapid technological advancements. These findings underscore the importance of partnerships between educational institutions and businesses in developing relevant training programs.

Such educational collaborations benefit employees by offering opportunities for professional growth and career advancement. For employers, these partnerships provide a strategic approach to talent development, reducing the reliance on external recruitment and lowering turnover rates. Training programs can be specifically designed to meet the immediate and future needs of the industry, ensuring a dynamic and skilled workforce.

In the long run, these partnerships not only contribute to filling the immediate skill gaps but also play a crucial role in shaping a resilient and adaptable workforce. The investment in upskilling initiatives, while significant, promises substantial returns in terms of employee engagement, innovation, and overall organizational competence.

Fostering a Culture of Lifelong Learning

Educational partnerships with academic institutions primarily serve as a strategic tool for employers to foster workforce development and upskill their employees. By engaging in these collaborations, businesses can ensure their workforce remains at the forefront of industry advancements, enhancing overall productivity and competitiveness.

Employees gain access to tailored courses, certificates, and boot camps, promoting a culture of continuous professional development. This investment in employee growth not only nurtures innovation and initiative within the team but also contributes significantly to the business's success by keeping the workforce skilled and adaptable in a rapidly evolving market landscape.

Enhancing University and Industry Reputations

When schools and respected companies partner together, this could improve their reputations significantly. A school partnering with a global company, for instance, is sure to be noticed by prospective students. The learning opportunities these partnerships make available can result in a higher sense of prestige and, thus, more program applicants for schools.

These partnerships could help companies improve their own reputations as thought leaders and trusted industry professionals. Combine this with the potential for overall opportunities for both parties, and it's clear why so many schools and companies are forging partnerships to their mutual benefit.

Building a Network of Resources and Opportunities

Another key point to keep in mind regarding academic partnerships is their potential to build a lasting network of resources and opportunities for students, faculty, and businesses alike. Many times, these collaborations lead to an expanded network of resources and contacts that can spearhead future collaboration opportunities.

Students who complete these programs, for example, may go on to become thought leaders in their particular area. They may then proceed to serve as advisory board members, mentors, or in other capacities for the same programs they completed. During this time, they can share their personal knowledge and experience with current students to help perpetuate the program's success.

Learn More, Today

From building a skilled workforce to providing students with the practical applications they need throughout their studies, partnerships between businesses and universities are mutually advantageous. For businesses considering partnerships with a local school, it is important to explore schools located near known talent clusters. From there, being prepared to negotiate with school leaders could improve the chances of a successful, fruitful, and beneficial collaboration.

At the University of Minnesota's College of Continuing & Professional Studies, we're proud to offer workforce development programs that can help your employees reach their full potential. We even have group discounts for organizations with groups of four or more. Learn more about our employee development programs or get in touch with a client manager today to get started.