EMPLOYER ENGAGEMENT Breaking down the barriers to collaboration with industry Abel Nyamapfene & Dawn Evans
Project Aims To formalise the channels and processes used to communicate and interact with industry by the university. To use these channels and processes to develop more effective and efficient relationships between the two. To share our findings with other HEIs and the STEM community in an accessible way.
Review Meetings and interviews were conducted with a wide range of individuals, including: Academic staff, FINDINGS SO FAR Students, Professional services staff, Barriers within the College of Engineering, Maths and Physical Sciences and Difficulties in communication between HEIs elsewhere within the university. and industry. The responses were analysed and Lack of knowledge of industry/HEI needs. some recurring themes for Establishing and maintaining relationships problems with engagement were over time to maximise benefit is a challenge. revealed: Lack of awareness regarding the communication channels that already exist between businesses and institutions. It can be difficult to know where to find the most relevant literature and in some places the abundance can be overwhelming.
CONNECTING PEOPLECRM system Brochure A customer relationship management A brochure has been suggested as a way to outline to system has been suggested as an employers the procedures involved to engage with the effective way to keep track of ongoing College. relationships with industry. It could also be used within the University as a way to It was cited as a useful tool to quickly ensure that employers always get directed to the research interactions with a particular relevant person, no matter who they contact. company in order to present a professional Engagement for a project is often seen as difficult to image to industry. achieve. Concerns have been raised over privacy A brochure should clarify what the different types of and personal contacts – suggestions have engagement entail, what would be required and what been made about how to overcome these the benefits are. issues. However, it is noted that for employers, an innovative Implementation – College-wide or design (e.g. not a traditional paper booklet) would be institution-wide? Discussions are ongoing necessary to capture their interest. with staff at all levels to decide how best to One idea that was suggested by an employer would move forward with this. be to store all relevant information on a credit card- shaped memory stick to distribute to employers at networking events.
PROJECTS WITHOUT BORDERS: UNDERSTANDING HOW UNDERGRADUATE PROJECTS DIFFER ACROSS STEM DISCIPLINESProject Aims To improve the quantity and quality of industrial involvement in student projects in the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences. Discover the specific barriers to engagement for different types of project. Research best practice to overcome these barriers, both within the university and in the available literature. Build a guide to enable different types of projects to be compared with these best practice examples, and to draw on relevant recommendations. Ensure that this information is easily accessible
STUDENT PROJECTSFindings so far Barriers The majority of students who have had Discrepancies between project timings and involvement with industry are positive about industry timings can lead to problems. their experience. Some reasons include: Employers are sometimes unsure which Improved employability year group would be most appropriate for Good experience their needs. Enjoyable/something different Communication between the student, Learnt new skills academic supervisor and industrial partner Established links with industry – through needs to be sustained for the project to be research etc. – sometimes lead to further successful. collaboration through student projects. If employers have a bad experience with a Maximising engagement with existing industrial student project, they will be more reluctant to partners is seen to be very important. engage in future. A good relationship with an industrial partner Intellectual property rights and nondisclosure can help motivate the student. agreements (or lack of) have caused problems for many student projects. Not all employers see the value in a student project
COMMUNICATIONCommunicating with Industry As a result of our investigations, we aim to produce guidance to help universities ensure that engagement with industry for student projects is effective, no matter which stage they are at, or the type of project. We particularly want to present this information in an accessible way. Much engagement relies on “repeat business” after a good experience – we hope that our guidance will minimise the chances of a negative experience. Our work will emphasise the importance of clarity and outlining expectations at every stage of a student project. In short – communication is key!