This is what corporate-designed curriculum looks like

How companies and organizations are working with higher education institutions and programs to help fill workforce gaps and bolster college and university resources.

When Hydrotech, Inc., detected a noticeable gap between the experienced, knowledgeable recruits that it needed and the types of job candidates it was attracting, the company knew it wouldn’t be long before its eligible employee pipeline dwindled. “We’re less interested in finding someone who can swing a hammer,” says Jim Pickrel, marketing manager for the Cincinnati-based fluid power and motion automation solutions distributor, “and more intent on getting employees who can interface with computers and operate intelligent machinery.”

To help fill the gap, align itself with the regional education system, and cultivate future job candidates, the distributor reached out to Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. The school was running an electromechanical engineering program that relied on outdated equipment for student training.  Pickrel says the distributorship participated in a series of meetings with the Electro-Mechanical Engineering Technologies department head before coming up with a plan of action.

“We looked at exactly what the school needed to bring its lab up to date,” says Pickrel. “We wanted to make sure we understood the requirements and the specifications, and that we’d be able to make a positive impact on the program.”

Working with manufacturing firm Bosch Rexroth, Hydrotech initially donated four Pneumatic and Fluid Dynamic Training Systems to replace the school’s existing, antiquated equipment. Today, the Bosch Rexroth DS3 models are used to demonstrate simulations of manually and/or pneumatically operated valves, electrically operated valves, and PLCs (programmable logic controllers).

According to Pickrel, Hydrotech engineers, assembles, and develops the equipment that the college is using. Last year the distributor donated another four hydraulic training stands that students are now using to test and train different scenarios they may encounter when working in the fluid power industry. “These students may be working for us someday or for one of our local clients or partners,” says Pickrel. “It’s a blessing to be able to help them develop the crucial skills that they need to be successful.”

A Long History of Corporate Curriculum Success

Higher education has long relied on strong partnerships with businesses and organizations to help enhance student success both in and out of school. Thanks to advancements in technology, emerging careers (i.e., data scientists), and the changing needs of today’s employers, a growing number of firms are joining forces to do their part in developing the modern-day workforce.

“From a macro perspective, a large number of people are looking to prepare themselves for re-entry into the job market while others are just coming into the job market for the first time and competing with these experienced individuals,” says Chris Neimeth, COO at NYC Data Science Academy in New York. “At the same time, organizations are looking at new ways of doing business and new solutions—such as data-driven decision making. This has created a need for students to learn how to use these new tools and solutions.”

(Next page: Examples of corporate curriculum throughout institutions)

Examples of these partnerships in action can be seen across numerous fields of study and colleges/universities. In the information technology (IT) field, for example, Ohio State University partnered with Hyland Software to give students the opportunity to intern at the company and then apply their skills in jobs within OSU’s Office of the Chief Information Officer. At Georgia Southern University, the campus bookstore partnered with a mobile repair company to teach students about the technology behind their devices, as well as how to perform simple repair services.

In Silicon Valley, companies are helping to create a talent pipeline from colleges and universities, and from privately-funded academic programs, for students skilled in cybersecurity. At the Rochester Institute of Technology, a recent $25,000 gift from Intel is helping to transform computing security education by developing new cybersecurity curriculum on strategic thinking and tactics.

According to Neimeth, NYC Data Science Academy is currently working with Dataiku, a French software developer that helps data scientists process and understand big data, to help students prepare for successful careers in data and analytics. During a 12-week, full-time “Data Science Bootcamp,” students use Dataiku’s DSS software and also work with the firm’s data scientists to learn about data analysis and machine learning, production line integration, and big data analytics.

Neimeth says NYC Data Science Academy’s goal is to make the field of data science more accessible to a larger swath of students. “Up until recently, understanding powerful algorithms was the domain of those with very high levels of education and complex statistical knowledge,” says Neimeth. “Using open-source software solutions like R and Python—and user-friendly packages like DSS—we’re making these powerful algorithms more accessible.”

Not Just High Tech for Corporate Curriculum

It’s not just data scientists and analytics majors who are benefitting from stronger alignment between higher ed and business. In March, Yale’s Center for Customer Insights (YCCI) joined forces with EduSourced. Through this relationship, YCCI produces research and thinking on behavioral economics and data analytics, while EduSourced helps universities modernize their approach to learning to help better prepare graduates for the job market. The initiative pairs teams of MBA students with industry partners to work on “Discovery Projects” that focus on finding solutions to real-world marketing problems.

David Comisford, EduSourced’s CEO, says his organization’s role is to consolidate all of the Discovery Project information on a single platform where users can login, view projects, and complete work. “We created a collaborative platform where the client (i.e., an outside company) can participate,” says Comisford. “Whereas an outside party can’t use a university’s learning management system (LMS), we open that up and provide value by allowing everyone to have access to the team’s work.”

In a move that’s bringing Hollywood’s newest technology to New Jersey, for example, Montclair State University has partnered with Sony Electronics to give the school’s communication and media students real-world experience and to get a high-tech preview of their future careers.

When it opens next year, the university’s new School of Communication and Media building will provide a facility where Sony will offer industry professional training similar to what is offered at its Digital Motion Picture Center (DMPC) on the lot of Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, California. Merrill Brown, director of the School of Communication and Media, says right now the focus is on building a facility that will be both comprehensive and relevant for both the “older world” and for the “newer word.” For instance, it will include facilities for learning both about traditional film and TV production as well as those designated for newer, digital technologies.

“We are building a facility at a moment of dramatic change, with obvious higher education state university budget limitations,” says Brown. “At the same time, we need to cover many, many disciplines and create an environment that can be flexible and nimble as things change.” Theresa Alesso, Sony’s vice president of sales and marketing, says the company has increased its use of university partnerships over the last two years. She’s learned a lesson or two along the way, and says her best advice to schools is to seek out a partnership that’s mutually beneficial.

“Think through the partners that you want to work with and take the time to make sure that you’re not over-spending, overbuilding, or otherwise overextending yourself in the process,” says Alesso. “Don’t just go for the partner that comes in and wants to sell you a whole boatload of product. For the relationship to work, it should be both collaborative and consultative.”

More to Come

Going forward, Comisford sees more opportunity ahead for colleges and universities to partner effectively with outside organizations with the overall mission of helping to better prepare graduates for success in the workforce. “This level of partnering has been happening for a long time, but historically it has taken place ‘under the radar,’” he says. “Now, it’s becoming a formal initiative that schools are putting resources into and thinking about in a more strategic manner.”

Sign up for our newsletter

Newsletter: Innovations in K12 Education
By submitting your information, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

eSchool Media Contributors

Oops! We could not locate your form.