Why Collaborations Between Colleges and Companies Are Important Now More Than Ever

July 15, 2020

It’s hard to predict what a post-COVID job market will look like but it has become clear that students must be better equipped with the right skills for any outcome. Before the pandemic, less than a quarter of employers believe graduates are prepared to start a career after college, while 90% of freshmen say they primarily go to college to get a job, according to Inside Higher Ed. The disparity between the intention of pursuing higher education and the actual results after graduation is alarming, considering only 25% of graduates believe their education is relevant to their current job. These numbers are not likely to improve as we face new challenges in the future job market - unless new solutions are implemented.

Facing similar concerns, companies and colleges should collaborate on improving the education system to face these past and future challenges. Continue reading to learn more about what a collaboration would look like and how it’s uniquely beneficial during this time. 

The Case for Work-Integrated Learning

Companies and institutions have worked together in many ways in the past through work-integrated learning.

Work-integrated learning (WIL) is when students come to learn from experiences in both an educational and practical setting. It requires the collaboration of academic institutions, companies, and students. 

The range of options available for work-integrated learning means that it can be a good fit for any company or institution. From case studies and applied research to co-ops and internships, it’s rooted in the principle of providing value for both the students and the companies.

For Companies: A Short and Long Term Investment

It has never been more important for a business to be quick and adaptive in their response to external factors. Recent world events have uprooted many business practices and traditional companies are struggling to adapt. If companies don’t have the bandwidth to work on new projects and want to fill the gap in resources, students would be an important and fairly accessible resource. Student talent is becoming more essential as their fresh insights and flexible mindset are proving to be valuable in these uncertain times.  

Work-integrated learning allows companies to engage with students and apply their insights with low commitment and more cost-efficiency. When it comes to hiring, there’s less of a worry that new graduates are underqualified for new jobs as companies will have already created a talent funnel from their experiences with students. Through the support of an institution, companies can dampen their fears of longevity by working with students and adapt quicker and better to the implications of the pandemic and future events.      

For Academic Institutions: A Chance to Deliver on Their Promises

As higher-ed starts to understand the lasting implications of the pandemic, educators and students alike are calling for a long-awaited structural change. Companies are increasingly concerned that upcoming grads will not be adequately prepared for a post-COVID work environment as student engagement drops. As an online semester becomes a reality for many students worldwide, educators have spent this summer upskilling and learning new ways to engage their students online. 

WIL connects students to real-life projects where their theoretical learning is directly applied and challenged. Students are held more accountable for their work because their effort isn’t measured with grades but rather a real outcome. By exposing them to different fields and industries prior to graduation, educators are delivering on their promise to help students find a job as they use this experience to learn applicable skills and better choose their future careers.      

The Need for More Opportunities

Although WIL is already present at many institutions, 89% of current students support more work-integrated learning in programs, according to BHER

In many cases, there’s a disproportionate focus on STEM and business programs for WIL opportunities leaving Arts and Humanities students without the necessary experience to succeed after graduation. Combined with the lack of engagement in online classes, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for students to understand the value of paying sizeable tuition fees for higher education.  

The last few months have demonstrated the importance and urgency of WIL. There’s a greater push from all sides - students, educators, companies - for more meaningful and inclusive collaboration. To help facilitate these WIL opportunities, Riipen offers a marketplace for both the educator and employer to match on projects and virtual internships. 

If you’re interested in working with students, learn more about how virtual internships can be a solution for your business needs. If you’re looking to get started or learn more about the process, email internships@riipen.com

About the Author

Yogmaya Singh is a fourth-year Entrepreneurship student at the University of British Columbia, and a Marketing Intern at Riipen. Driven by her need to explore and grow, she's always found herself working within roles that challenge her. She's interested in all things music, enjoys trying new foods and dabbling with art.