As technology advances, skills are becoming obsolete faster than ever and a more broadly educated graduate is needed. Part of the solution might be for universities to work closer with businesses, and they are closely managing the communications process, even employing specialist staff.

In his book The Fuzzy and the Techie, Google executive Scott Hartley reckons the best new products and technology come from innovations that are a blend of the arts and sciences.
“We need context and code, data literacy and data science,” he says.

Deloitte says the business sector both now and in the future needs workers who possess a blend of problem-solving, social and technical skills.

The Auckland ICT Graduate School is an example of close co-operation between universities and businesses, producing broadly skilled graduates with practical experience in a business.

Across the road at AUT, its Department of Management also works closely with firms and recruits some graduates who have already worked in the corporate environment.

Professor Jarrod Haar, a human resources specialist, reckons most graduate students on his courses have already worked full-time. Thanks to their work experience, they are more likely to ask questions like “What does it mean?” and “What can I learn?”

A smorgasbord of options

Haar says returning from the corporate world to study can result in wider opportunities when students go back on the job market.

In future, Haar says, universities may offer programmes in which people can stay at a job for longer, choose from a smorgasbord of full- and part-time options, and structure a course for their own needs. For example, he suggests, some students could start their degrees with a block course (say, eight papers over 18 months) and then find jobs, finishing their degrees over slightly longer periods than today.

Of course, many students will still opt for the regular, three-year, full-time degree and be recruited by firms afterwards.

Haar himself is working closely with an employer – a new move for both parties, he says. He recently began a study with Perpetual Guardian, a Kiwi firm trying out a four-day working week, paying staff the same money.

From the university’s point of view, it does mean that research projects may be more practical than before.

Haar says the Perpetual Guardian project is an example of how universities are trying to move on from being places that people drive past thinking, “Hey there are some smart people working in there”, but are unsure what they do.

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