Industry-Institution Partnerships – Be There First to Get the Best

Written by Priyanka K

“The early bird catches the worm” is a timeless idiom, commonly used in various contexts. Does it apply to industry-academia partnerships? Read on to know how.

Collaboration between companies and universities/colleges is not unheard of. In fact, some of the biggest tech firms sprouted from university campuses. The humble beginnings of tech giants like Google, Facebook, Dell, Microsoft, and Yahoo from their respective college campuses are success stories that have made history.

From the eyes of an outsourcing service provider, college campuses were the biggest source of fresh talent during the outsourcing boom. India, for instance, was one such country which saw engineering colleges increasing in number as the country’s services industry grew. College students in the Philippines were finding jobs in call centers to fund their education expenses due to the relatively high pay they received.

The sourcing industry has evolved dramatically and as service providers dive into niche disruptive technologies, they are having more difficulty recruiting the qualified skillsets from fresh graduates.  While the IT industry has been dynamic, many educational institutions continue to teach from the same syllabus they taught a few years ago. Since colleges are not able to meet the needs of these firms, the companies end up spending a big chunk of their resources on training freshers. For instance, Infosys spends nearly $6,000 for training every graduate that it hires for six months at its own school. The skills and needs gap is quite wide, especially with regards to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education.

And therefore, it is not surprising at all that over the last few years, things have changed. Bulk campus recruitments are not the first choice of tech majors. Of what is left in the name of campus placements, most of it is limited to top business schools and these resources generally form the top of the pyramid. Who is at loss? Of course students from many other good institutions lose out in terms of a lucrative job; but from the industry perspective, companies lose out on good quality potential candidates.

Today, trained labor pools are limited. Add to it the pressure of rising demand for workers, a small labor force (especially if the location is small), aging population, etc. So what is the long-term outlook?

Starting early is extremely important. Here’s why companies need to select, train, and secure their resources in advance through collaborative efforts with the educational institutions:

  1. Start Early, Gain Early – The marketplace is evolving at an extremely fast pace. Those who identify their future needs and train resources in advance will have the competitive edge. The earlier you buy an insurance policy, the lesser the premium amount.
  2. Save on Training Costs – Those who spend now can save big on training costs after the resource comes on board. An added advantage is that young minds are trained easy. Also, internship programs mostly come at almost no cost to the company.
  3. Gain from Research & Innovation on Campus – These campuses can be nurtured into innovative ecosystems. While they may not be able to completely replace an in-house R&D center immediately, who knows what the future holds. The next big idea may be hidden in a college project.
  4. Have A Say in the Curriculum – Instead of fretting about the widening skills gap, investing in education will mean there’s more in the industry’s hands than was there before.
  5. Make it Part of the Popular Corporate Social Responsibility Concept – This is a good way to give back to the society. But it should not just be limited to being treated as a feel good factor. There’s always so much more to education!
  6. Back to School, Lots to Learn – While students get trained, companies can involve their employees in the whole process and promote their development, too.
  7. Plan for a Sustainable Talent Pipeline – Earlier the approach, better the results. Remember the best deal on flight tickets; those made much in advance after proper planning will not only get you cheaper tickets, you may also get the choice of a window seat.

The good part is that the industry is not alone in these efforts. Many governments are encouraging such nurturing culture, which is a win-win for everyone involved.

Be it the “Innovative Universities of the US and Europe” or the “Bay Area STEM program for Latina Girls,” the long ongoing partnerships between India’s “Nasscom (The National Association of Software and Services Companies) and Infosys, TCS and Cognizant” or Colombia’s “National Service of Learning (SENA)” program, it all points to one thing – if you get there first, you get the best.