The recruiters, to their dismay, are rarely able to find right hires from among new graduates
The widening gap between academia and industry is hotly debated these days. People from industry seek suitable candidates with right attitude, skills, domain knowledge. These are also the very traits academics hope to impart and instill in their students in B-schools. However, the recruiters, to their dismay, are hardly able to find right candidates from among the new graduates.
So what explains this perennial problem?
There has of late been a proliferation in the number of business schools, such that maintaining quality has become a big challenge. In this context, we could perhaps have a Business Education Quality Council, such as one finds in medicine, engineering and law streams. Those who pass with business degrees will then have to undergo a final nonpartisan assessment before they are employed.
Business Studies, as a discipline, would certainly lose its charm if it is taken up only by students ill-equipped to pursue a career in science and/or engineering. This is why it is important to maintain uniformity and consistency while imparting management education to students of business.
And on the industry-academia gap referred to earlier, we need to move to specifics from generalities, so that we can come up with specific guidelines that are useful both for business graduates and recruiters. For this, industry and university representatives need to closely collaborate in areas such as syllabus formulation and its timely revisions; introduction of newer and market-driven subjects of specialization (big data analysis, digital marketing and branding, etc); and pre-planning every internship project so that both the interns and the industries that recruit them benefit.
Private corporate houses that still run as family businesses have opaque human resource practices. Though we in classrooms teach concepts like transparency, corporate governance, and accountability, business houses do not bother to disclose any of the important HR policies such as compensation and performance appraisal.
So the academics need to sensitize the business about the benefits of incorporating better HR practices while they must also prepare their students for the stark contrast between the academic world and the industrial domain. Managing the expectations of students before they enter the corporate world is necessary so that new graduates don’t have a reality shock.
But most corporate houses are themselves clueless about the kind of human resources they require. They would have a better idea if they undertook competency-based job analysis to ascertain the right number of people they need to fill vacancies. Manpower requirement need to be supported by detailed competency profiles, and the same should be communicated to B-schools. For example, there is a need for graduates with project management skills for business houses involved in the development sector. Realizing this ‘felt need’, some colleges have started offering Project Management as a specialization course for their students.
Internship programs continue to be a nagging issue in the industry-academia interface. Internship has to be taken up and completed in partial fulfillment of requirements of any management/business study in almost all universities and B-schools across the globe. Internship is of immense importance for students as, through this training, they realize which career is suitable for them. It is a win-win for both the parties as the companies offer pre-placement offers to the interns on the basis of their performance, thereby converting internship into employment.
Business houses should also be open to permitting universities to carry out research and not be unduly concerned about secrecy issues, nor should they try to unduly influence research outcomes. Students can carry out applied research, which can be immensely useful in the making of business strategies. Business houses can facilitate this process.
Collaboration between academia and industry is critical for skill development, innovation and technology transfer and entrepreneurship. In fact, the benefits of such university-industry linkages are wide-ranging: they can collaborate on R&D and avoid duplication, they can work to stimulate private R&D investment, and they can explore synergies of scientific and technological capabilities.
Unfortunately, there is often an inherent mismatch between research orientations of businesses (that are excessively focused on quick commercial results) and universities (that are oriented to long-term basic research).
Nonetheless, the two must find ways to work together in order to work out win-win solutions to the many problems each is struggling to deal with on its own.
The author is a lecturer at Kathmandu
University School of Management