Yesterday I have the pleasure of attending a workshop on getting business and education together on providing the right skills to business.
This was an excellent day and I met a lot of people and learned a lot. A few key points came out of this:
- There needs to be identification of those students that want to either be an entrepreneur, employees or academics. There needs to be separate tracks for these, two at minimum.
- Work placements need to be longer. I suggested something along the lines of the co-op program where students are on work placement (paid) for six months at a time, interleaved with course work.
- Lecturers should also take work placements. This gets them out of the “Ivory Towers” to see how things are really done
- Students need to be given advice on aptitude, communication and attitude. Strong communication – particularly face to face and working with others is extremely important. These skills seem to be in decline or were never taught in the first place. Computer Science programmes rarely teach documentation and communication skills. They should, these are essential to work in any environment.
I was bemused to hear of one local employer that was complaining that they could not find people with a specific skill set. He complained that this was due to cost. Universities were teaching using freely available technologies like Java whereas he uses more expensive Microsoft technologies. This really takes the disconnect to the extreme
I have always been passionate that universities cannot cater for every business need. If they teach fundamental skills these are easily transferable to any technology. Being an experienced programmer myself I know that I can easily learn another computer technology in days. This is simply a case where an employer is shirking their training responsibilities.
As I say to any employer, if you want specific skills from universities, then put your money where your mouth is and fund them! They might just prove more useful to your business, and the student, then your Ferrari.