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A Recipe for Sustained Change: Creating Valuable Partnerships between Higher Education and Industry

We live and function in an evolving society both domestically and internationally. As a result, I believe the time is now for the emergence of creative, innovative, and intentional partnerships driven by leaders who want to make the workforce more inclusive. The idea that institutions and industry can function in isolation given the current educational climate is outdated and not viable economically, socially, culturally, or politically. With the goal of educating and preparing the next generation of leaders who possess the necessary skillsets, here are a few thoughts on the value of partnerships from both the higher education and industry perspectives, based on my personal experience.

Higher education perspective

This perspective is based on my over thirty years of higher education and industry partnership experience at multiple levels. The combination of interdisciplinary academic programs and leadership development in and outside the classroom, particularly for undergraduate students, is common place in higher education. These efforts have fostered internal partnerships/collaboration across academic and non-academic areas of college campuses. These intentional action steps are designed to best prepare students for the evolving society in which they will live, work, and in some cases, provide leadership. However, it is clear that the preparation of these next-generation leaders must include higher education’s intentional partnership with industry. 

Broadening perspective leads to stronger partnerships

Another perspective is to develop strategies for best practices in recruitment and retention/success of Generations X, Y, Z, first-generation college students, and low-income college students from diverse backgrounds. But these issues of retention and inclusion are not only applicable to higher education; they apply to industry as well. Therefore, higher education will bring to the partnership a level of research expertise in understanding these issues, including strategies on how to address them both on campuses and in industry settings. 

The likelihood of higher education and industry to remain competitive and successful, I believe, depends on our ability to develop a mutually beneficial partnership and relationship. The transformation for positive change that is occurring in higher education is also happening in industry. Therefore the value of partnership is mutual and adds legitimacy to those voices calling for change in advancing an inclusive workforce, both in higher education and industry.

Finally, leadership at all levels must understand the context and be accountable for promoting an inclusive workforce.

— Dr. Henry Odi, Deputy VP and Associate Provost for Academic Diversity, Lehigh University