Published on 2012/09/07

The Importance of the Corporate Training Market Outweighs the Cost

While different institutions will approach the corporate market differently depending on their mission and values, no modern university will survive for very long without some programming geared towards the professional development and training market.

I hate to start any argument by saying, “it depends.” However, that is the right answer when considering whether pursuit of the corporate training marketplace distracts institutions from their core mission. 

Higher education cannot be put in such a unified package. The range of institutions and missions—from professional and trade programs, through community colleges, across small and large, research institutions versus not, public versus private, and Land Grant versus not—makes the answer highly dependent on the individual institution’s mission.

For a small liberal arts undergraduate program, the answer is probably yes, it is something of a distraction. However, for community college it is part of the core mission.

Another factor is the location and economic environment of the institution. If you are a major public or private research university and are located in Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin, New York, Atlanta or another top 20 region, surrounded by Fortune 500 headquarters and large scale manufacturing, high technology, finance and others, then the corporate market is probably something you have always served and it is built into your culture.

If you are in Albuquerque, New Mexico with no major headquarters within hundreds of miles and a community college that serves the corporate market well, then you probably never tried to serve that market.

At Colorado State University (in Fort Collins, Colorado), we do not try to serve the corporate custom education program market.  We do try to serve corporations, and we serve them with:

  • Research partnerships in areas where our $330 million dollar annual research program overlaps
  • Commercialization efforts related to our inventions and patents
  • Partnerships in key labs like our regional bio-containment and extreme ultraviolet labs
  • Staffing when they hire our graduates at the undergraduate, masters, and PhD level
  • Philanthropic common interests

No modern university fares well for long without great relationships with businesses in several of these areas. We also have built degree programs aimed at particular industry needs like systems engineering and applied statistics, and offer these to sponsoring partners as well as all other qualified students.

At CSU, our distance education division, OnlinePlus, seeks to make our world class programs available with very high quality to students who cannot come to our campus.  We have hundreds of trusted relationships with industry partners and almost no single company-specific education programs, but rather programs that meet industry demand.

In sum, serving the corporate market is crucial for today’s higher education institution; whether it is through programs geared toward professionals or relationships with strategic corporate partners. The extent of pursuit of that market is dependent on the size and focus of your particular institution.

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Readers Comments

Dr. Heidi L. Maston 2012/09/07 at 11:37 am

“Almost no single company specific education program.” Counter Point

The devil is in the details.

As my thoughts are exactly the same for both “Point” and “Counter Point” I’ll be posting the same reply on both sides.

It appears that the goals of both sides of the debate are to educate the individuals who need to be educated in order than 1) The learning process occurs for the student to gain a skill set, and 2) The student gains a skill set to better feed an industry.

While Berkley goes about this by bringing the training to the corporations on a ‘case by case’ basis, it seems that CSU achieves these goals by assessing what the corporations need/want and then developing the programs/partnerships to feed that need.

Both are right and both are wrong.

In a world where a ‘college degree’ once meant that a student had be taught to learn – regardless of major – there seems to have been a flip. Now we see the corporations driving the learning by demanding higher skill sets (those historically taught in the employee workplace) of their college graduates.

What this means is we have students who are capable of doing, “X,Y, and Z” but – and this is especially visible in the tech world – when those skill sets become obsolete, what is left? A worker who has a difficult time finding a position in a ‘new era’ because” they were trained in such a closed loop that they missed out on the training, and learning, of a holistic education.

Corporate training is worthy. Formal higher education is worthy, too. I caution against putting one ahead of the needs of the other.

Dr. Heidi L. Maston

Simon Lang 2012/09/07 at 1:19 pm

Here’s where I disagree with you; Heidi:

Providing formal higher education is very costly, but the amount we are allowed to charge is scrutinized to the nth degree. So while education becomes increasingly more expensive to provide, institutions are lambasted for increasing the amounts they charge; even in the face of reducing budgets.

As such, I would argue that in order for higher education institutions to provide any level of education to anyone, they must find some cash cow which will help them fund their academic programming.

Corporate training is necessarily for the survival of universities and colleges. Formal programming is necessary for their pedigree. The two are certainly independent and important, but I would say survival is the more vital requirement.

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