Published on 2012/09/28

Five Ways for Higher Education to Better Serve Businesses

In order to be competitive in today’s corporate market, higher education providers must be flexible to their client’s needs while also providing employees relevant material and pathways to new certifications.

With an increased need for training to meet the demands of a dynamic workforce, colleges and universities must find new avenues to offer education and training. Yet traditional classes rarely fit the fluctuating needs for corporate clients. Here are five ways higher education can work to better serve business and industry.

1. Flexibility

Often, classes are offered in standardized formats. Many training programs create one or two 8-hour-a-day sessions, and most classes run for 8 or 16 weeks at 3 hours per week. When building courses for corporate clients, higher education must break the mold by asking two important questions:

  1. How will these hours affect the client’s workforce?
  2. What, if any, learning benefits are achieved through the current schedule?

Scheduling classes on or off site with a company may pose challenges such as travel time, scheduled vacations and lunch breaks. More importantly, there are instances where all team members attending training cannot be off the floor at the same time due to safety or production regulations. Colleges and universities need to be sensitive to these issues and develop creative solutions instead of viewing them as difficulties.

These standard formats are typical for a reason though, whether it is instructor availability or a client’s interest in finishing training quickly. When evaluating the purpose of a course’s format, the learning strategies should take priority as the foundation for compromise.

For example, a business seeks Spanish language training for their management staff and decides that a 16-hour course, normally held in four 4-hour sessions, best fits the depth and breadth of their needs. Due to being-short staffed, they want to complete the training in two full days over a scheduled shut down. However, for language training to be absorbed and applied well, short, distanced sessions are more ideal as to not overwhelm students with new vocabulary and allow time for practice and repetition.

While the institution does need to be flexible, they also need to educate their client, since improper scheduling may lead to a poor return on investment. Strategically placing eight 2-hour sessions to fit the client’s schedule will provide the results desired and not impact their business.

2. Relevancy

Many training courses offered by higher education institutions are “off the shelf” programs; curriculum designed for a specific length of time and particular learning objectives. This can be positive if the course yields consistent excellent outcomes, but rarely does one size fit all. And simply being classified as customizable may not result in the specific learning objectives and culture of a workplace.

When matching programs to corporate clients, learning objectives must be highly applicable to their needs and evaluated as actionable practices for their corporate culture. Considering our Spanish class from the previous example, perhaps this course was built as an introduction to general conversational words and phrases, but the client needs industry-specific terms. Obtaining a list of vocabulary words from the client and incorporating them into the training is a simple way to build relevant curriculum without reinventing the wheel.

3. Needs Assessments

College staff and faculty are accustomed to an environment where students come to them, trusting that the classes they take will lead to the outcome they desire; a degree, a skill, or a career. There are scores of people who aid in this process, from Career Services to Academic Advisors, Faculty, and Student Services staff. But when a corporate client comes into the mix, often they are only offered a list of courses to choose from without the added support.

Building in needs-assessments on the front end with clients can uncover the core issues that need addressed. Referring to our Spanish training example, language skills appear to be a simple and obvious need, but perhaps there are deeper cultural and communication breakdowns occurring. If more issues are uncovered via an assessment, customizing the course with even a few relevant activities could dramatically increase and improve the outcomes.

4. Transferability

One of the greatest benefits of working with a college is the potential for transferable college credits. While some places offer college at work—traditional classes held on an employer’s site—most often, training sessions are non-credit. When these sessions are certification preparation, once the individual passes the test that certification usually will account for some measure of transfer credit. But what about all other training?

While it is not always possible, it is surprisingly easy to build non-credit courses that may apply for credit by structuring learning objectives around standard credit-bearing classes. A level of flexibility will still need to exist for each client, but knowing their course can open the door for more college classes may be a significant incentive.

5. Social Media Marketing

Most college and universities have a Facebook page and other standard social media presence. And while these arenas are important for prospective and current students, they are rarely aimed at businesses.

One of the best ways to introduce your value to the corporate market is through industry specific blogging. Encouraging your faculty to publish short articles on best practices not only gets the word out on your credibility, but also builds an audience that will return to your site as a center of knowledge.

By moving towards a model of flexible, relevant training, corporate clients will be able to take full advantage of education opportunities through college and universities, and ultimately support their own production, employee development, and local education providers.

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Readers Comments

Chuck Zahn 2012/09/28 at 8:12 am

Transferability is the biggest one on this list I think. I think it’s a huge selling point for employers when we can tell them that we will design a training program that will put their employees on the pathway to a credential.

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