Also, governments and policy makers should consider special incentives such as tax reliefs for industry or businesses that show stronger collaboration with academia.
The National Council for Tertiary Education and other educational bodies should also consider establishing a special unit within their organisations with the sole responsibility of liaising between academia and industry to strengthen their partnership.
Industry can also help to bridge the gap between itself and academia by first of all making it a policy to accept a number of undergraduates for internship every year, and ensuring that such interns are given the needed training for the world of work. Since industry seeks the kind of labour force that will “hit the ground running”, they should be willing to work with academia in ways that can affect the quality of education students are receiving. Again, industry should be willing to open their doors to lecturers who want to upgrade or develop new skills in their fields to do so.
Further, industry experts can volunteer to serve as visiting lecturers in higher educational institutions to impact teaching and learning. This will help students to appreciate better the expectations of industry; and be better placed to be successful at the workplace. Industry should also collaborate with academia regularly to provide stakeholders with data and statistics on job opportunities, required skills by industry through regular skill gap surveys to guide higher education policy and planning.
What role can Human Resource (HR) practitioners play to ensure that the proffered suggestions are implemented, thereby helping to bridge the gap between academia and industry? As an HR practitioner myself, I believe we feel the impact of the gap between industry and academia more. This is because we are the first point of call for graduates as far as their entry into industry is concerned. I get the shock of my life when First Class holders from our universities or polytechnics are not able to express themselves well during interview. It is so frustrating when you conduct interviews and you are unable to find one suitable candidate at the end of it all. When this happens, the cost of recruitment in terms of time and other resources becomes high. Again, when it comes to giving top-up skills training to new recruits, it increases the HR cost and tends to affect the HR budget in terms of being able carry out more strategic issues such as talent management and succession planning.
These are just a few of the reasons why I believe HR is better off spearheading the move to bridge the gap between industry and academia. HR practitioners should ensure greater collaboration between their various organisations and academia. We should strengthen our talent development, coaching and management policies and ensure that giving internship opportunities to undergraduates becomes part of our overarching strategy. HR practitioners should also, from time to time, collaborate with heads of higher educational institutions to organise career fairs for students. These career fairs should aim at exposing Higher Education (HE) authorities and students to industry standards, demands, skills and competency requirements. This would help in the training and preparation of students to be relevant to industry. HR practitioners should also facilitate the regular collaboration with academia to provide stakeholders with data and statistics on job opportunities, skills and competencies required by industry through regular skill gap surveys to guide higher education policy and planning.
Indeed, there is a huge gap between what industry expects and what academia produces. Bridging the academia and industry gap is a collaborative effort, and all stakeholders should work together to ensure that this gap is bridged. It is my humble opinion that the proffered suggestions will go a long way to bridge this gap if all stakeholders collaborate and work together. In doing so, the role of HR practitioners cannot be overlooked. HR practitioners should come out with workplace policies that ensure greater collaboration between their various organisations and academia.
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