Business schools engage business community

John Kooti

Sustaining current economic growth requires fulfilling businesses’ demands for a highly skilled workforce. Higher education, particularly public colleges and universities, has a huge role in fulfilling the need for a highly skilled labor force.

Historically, institutions of higher learning have been instrumental to economic growth and development because of their research and discovery; their ability to prepare students for the future workforce; to serve communities; and to provide overall economic impact.

Despite colleges’ and universities’ commitment to economic growth and development, there have been concerns over student readiness to meet the future needs of industries.

Businesses also have realized that partnership with higher-education is critically important to develop the necessary skills in more efficient ways. Realizing the central role of business schools, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International) has made engagement, innovation and impact the focus of business schools as they prepare students for leadership positions in a globally competitive business world.

Business schools have always enjoyed strong relationships with the business community. Businesses are highly experienced in developing partnerships aimed at recruiting the best and brightest business students post graduation.

But business schools can do more to engage businesses in developing opportunities for student preparation to maintain a sustainable flow of highly skilled labor.

Businesses emphasize the need for such skills as analysis and problem solving, collaboration and teamwork, communication, responsiveness, and adaptability. More importantly, finding applicants with sufficient practical experience is the greatest challenge facing recruitment from colleges and universities. Most business and higher education leaders agree that providing experience-based and practical learning is critical to address the current performance gaps.

Integral to this is building and expanding partnerships between academia and the private sector to create a more valuable educational ecosystem. A Harvard Business Review article titled “Why Higher Education and Businesses Need to Work Together” states that 57 percent of industry and academic leaders agree that collaboration is necessary to effectively deliver higher education to students, and 56 percent believe collaboration is necessary during curriculum development.

Colleges and universities currently face many challenges and disruptions, including declining state support. However, there is a tremendous opportunity for colleges and universities to explore and implement effective delivery of more value to students and the workforce.

For example, collaborations with local, regional, national and international business have been the hallmark of Shippensburg University’s John L. Grove College of Business (of which I am dean).

The Grove College of Business Advisory Board, the Supply Chain Advisory Council, and the Finance Advisory Council have been instrumental in assisting the school transform its curriculum and provide the necessary experiences for a successful career.

The business internship program, in place since 1972, has given our students the opportunities to gain practical expertise before they enter the workforce.

Also, starting this fall, the John L. Grove College of Business will provide students with a career readiness program titled the “John L. Grove Career Readiness Program.” We will challenge students to complete a series of activities relevant to the student-learning goals of critical thinking, communication, teamwork and collaboration, information technology, work ethics, leadership, and career management.

Institutions of higher learning are trying to prepare their students for the working world. And the business community is benefitting.

John Kooti is a professor of finance and dean of the John L. Grove College of Business at Shippensburg University. His email is JGKooti@ship.edu.