Published on 2012/09/24

Corporate Training as a New Old Strategy for Higher Education Institutions

Serving the corporate market provides a number of benefits to higher education institutions, including increased revenues and support for other institutional activities.

The phenomenon of shrinking higher education budgets is an emerging threat for institutions concerned with community engagement and academic outreach. This is higher education’s present reality. Universities currently faced with budget cuts and re-appropriations must now actively seek new and alternative revenue streams whether this revenue comes in the form of government grants and contracts, partnership activities with other higher education institutions, or—importantly—corporate alliances. Historically universities have turned to corporations for funds for research or for underwriting labs and other facilities on campus or as potential employers of the institution’s graduates. All are worthy endeavors. In this area of university-corporate relations, corporate training offers an additional opportunity in tight economic times for a number of reasons.

Faced with shrinking dollars from federal and state sources, corporate training can provide additional revenue for departments and faculty. Training programs can be adapted from research findings, course materials, faculty-authored books, and other sources. As such, these programs will have a grounding in theory and critical analysis but can be applied to real world workplaces.

A common observation by corporate executives is that a disconnect exists between the ivy walls of academe and the real world outside those walls. Corporate training can help equip university faculty simply by exposure to practical world requirements. This, in turn, translates into enhanced teaching because real world practices inform theory. This is a case where both the corporation and the university benefit through experience in the workplace.

Corporate training tends to lead to another key advantage: providing a vehicle for universities to offer internships, practica, employment placements, and other applied experiences to students. Through corporate training, faculty gain experiences and knowledge that lead to the development of additional training programs and resource material for use in textbooks, case studies, etc. These outcomes can be incorporated into regular campus-based courses, at the same time they are providing the additional revenue streams for universities. Thus, as education and general funds shrink at universities, linkages between corporations and university research and teaching units can provide financial support for activities that formerly relied upon tuition and gift funds.

Further, as a result of interactions with corporations, universities can develop executive and certificate programs for corporations. Such programs will also lead to credentialing opportunities that establish benchmarking for new skill sets. In an era of exponentially increasing information and new learning replacing prior degree knowledge, such midcareer “upgrades” are critical for individuals’ career portability and employers’ assurance of up-to-date employee capacity.

Examples of successful university-corporate partnerships abound. Corporate training has helped insurance risk companies develop new risk tables; as a result of training, oil companies have developed new exploration techniques; through training in GPS technology, automobile companies have benefited with improved fleet management practices. The list of benefits to corporations goes on and on.

The benefits to universities occur beyond mere dollars. Funding is essential, yes; but advantages extend to the individual faculty member’s expertise and research, to the lab that is enhanced through “real world” applications, to the students who have improved opportunities to carry their theoretical knowledge into the workplace in internships and jobs.

Given such an array of advantages, it is a “no-brainer” that increasing corporate training is an endeavor very worthy of a university’s consideration during this and future years.

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Readers Comments

Phil Maurice 2012/09/24 at 9:31 am

In our experience, the oppportunity to develop customized executive and certificate programs (and, further, customized MBA and Master’s programs) for particular corporations has come after years of partnership.

Is this similar to your experience, or do you tend to offer these programs to corporations early in the relationship?

Cindy Chao 2012/09/24 at 11:34 am

Many of the articles on this topic seem to point toward universities absorbing short-term costs for the benefit of long-term financial gain through corporate training.

Have you found the financial benefits to be more long-term, or do you tend to see the pay-off in the short-term as well?

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