When it comes to higher education and corporate partnerships, it’s not a “nice to have;” it is mission-critical for colleges and universities to survive. The job market is evolving so quickly that institutions need a steady stream of information from employers on what they want and need from their workforce so curriculum and learning can reflect those needs.

The key here is “partnership.” Think quality over quantity. Both sides—institutions and employers—are looking for return on investment (ROI), and these five approaches will help universities build impactful relationships with mutual benefits.

1. Identify your internal champions
First and foremost, understand internal champions of the institution. Many faculty members and trustees hold professional external positions and are willing to share the university’s mission and strengths with the outside world. Alumni have a broad reach when it comes to garnering support. LinkedIn is a great tool to easily identify where alumni are employed. The next step is to determine if those companies are recruiting your graduates for meaningful internships or full-time positions. If so, tap the alumni to develop or strengthen a relationship.

5 ways for universities to build corporate partnerships

2. Understand what a corporate partner wants
What’s in it for them? Corporate partners should gain something from having a relationship with your university. Identify what they are looking for and create opportunities that are mutually beneficial: access to student talent and faculty research; a business case analysis as part of curriculum or a presentation in the classroom; participation in career fairs; or opportunities for broadbrand awareness on campus.

About the Author:

Mary Davis is director of corporate relations at Bentley University in Massachusetts, where she works to attract corporate interest and philanthropy in the work that is taking place at Bentley. She has strong business development experience building strategic partnerships and aligning missions focused on growing business.


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