Getting the most out of skills
- Research-based relationships can provide the basis on which a skills-focused partnership may be built.
- Company staff lecturing at universities allows the company to get students familiar with the company, and supports staff career development and also provides visibility of the company’s research focus or business priorities.
- Work with a university that is flexible and responsive, and tailors its offer to suit the organisational needs of the business – not the universities’ past experiences.
- The starting point of a partnership should be identification of a business strategic challenge or employer skills need. Collaboration with a university may be the best way to address it, or it may not – and the solution may be available already, or may require development of a new product. Articulating the need and the possible solutions requires good communications between both parties.
Funding and planning
- Funding – who pays how much for what, and to whom – needs exploration and may need negotiation. In some cases financial support may be available, for example from the Catalyst Fund of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), various sources of EU funding, or the Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative (AMSCI).
- Planning a new course can be time-consuming for both sides. There can be unforeseen cultural differences in the approach of businesses and universities, which require development of mutual trust and understanding to overcome.
- Video-conferencing can be a helpful tool when the parties involved in planning are in a variety of different locations.
Points to watch
- In some universities the careers and industry liaison offices don’t have very effective communication with individual teaching departments, and this can cause problems.
- Universities have to consider governance requirements and accreditation issues around qualifications, which may be of secondary concern to businesses which are focusing on employee skills. But employees can be given additional motivation by the opportunity to work towards new qualifications.
- A business which is paying for its employees to study part-time may want feedback on how their studies are progressing – for example, in order to be able to give them extra support in the workplace where appropriate – but this may challenge some universities’ concerns about data protection.
- Be challenging – you are the customer!
- Sources of advice and information
- The UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), Universities UK and the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) are all potential sources of advice and guidance, as are some Sector Skills Councils.