Oct 05 2017

Will Business Partnerships Close the Tech Skill Gap?

Tech companies and universities collaborate to help students succeed in the future.

With 500,000 to 1 million IT jobs remaining unfilled every year, industry leaders have turned to higher education institutions to better prepare students for these lucrative careers. But, an IBM report reveals 57 percent of tech industry and academic leaders agree that partnerships between businesses and universities are necessary to provide students with the skills for these jobs.

“Despite their disappointment in the current system, academic and industry leaders appear optimistic about higher education’s future,” reads the IBM report. “When comparing the past five years to the next five, respondents predicted significant improvements in meeting industry demands, positioning students for employment and preparing students with the skills they need in the workforce.”

Through partnerships with businesses, college students can learn valuable entrepreneurship skills, and the tech industry can work toward integrating more diverse students in to its workforce.

Collaboration Has Big Benefits for Students, Businesses and Cities

Partnerships between businesses and colleges have proven so successful that some colleges have shaped entire programs around them.

Arizona State University has designed a program through a partnership with Draper University, a private enterprise in Silicon Valley devoted to tech industry entrepreneurship, where students design and pitch their own tech startups. Other universities, like the Georgia Institute of Technology, have developed entire labs where students can use technology to explore their entrepreneurial ideas and then pitch them to local businesses.

Business collaboration can be a pipeline to prepare diverse groups of students for jobs in the tech industry. Tech giant Google developed a Google in Residence program with a number of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), where engineers from the company serve as faculty in programs like computer science.

Piggybacking on the success of this — some students went on to internships and jobs at Google — the company announced earlier this year that it would launch an outpost of Howard University, an HBCU in Washington, D.C., at the company’s headquarters in California.

“With a physical space on campus where Howard students and Googlers can grow together, I can only imagine what innovation and creativity will come to light,” writes Google’s vice president of global partnerships, Bonita Stewart, in a blog post.

University partnerships with big tech companies like Google can also spark the creation of tech jobs in places they didn’t exist before. Largely thanks to collaborative work between Carnegie Mellon University and companies like Google and Uber, the city of Pittsburgh is poised to become the next tech metropolis.

“With the growing number of start-ups and the big companies in the area, people realize they can have not just one job at a good tech company, but a tech career here,” says Kamal Nigam, a CMU grad and head of Google Pittsburgh, in a New York Times article.

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