According to a 2011 Manpower survey, one in three employers is having difficulty filling positions because of a lack of talented applicants. Of the global companies surveyed, 73 percent said that they couldn’t fill positions because of a lack of skills, experience or knowledge in the applicant pool.

Initially, many are confused by this probably companies are claiming to have. More people are going to college than ever before. More people are going to graduate school even. The National Center for Education Statistics says that an MBA is at the top of the list of the most popular degree program for graduates. More people are lining up to get into business schools around the country in hopes of furthering their careers

However, the Manpower survey found that only six percent of companies are working with institutions of higher learning to create curricula that close the knowledge gap.

Many state governments are cutting funding to higher education institutions in an effort to solve state budget woes. However, now is one of the worst times to cut funding to universities. The hardest positions for employers to fill this year, according to Manpower, will be in the skilled trades, in engineering and in IT. A rigorous education at a university or training programs at a vocational school would be essential to generating applicants for any of those positions.

Additionally, corporations need to invest more time and money to ensure that college students are prepared for available jobs. John Colley, the director of MBA programs at the Nottingham University Business School, has written about the need for businesses to contribute toward taught curriculum content. At the same time, Colley argues, academics need to engage more with people in the business world. He suggests that professors take on non-executive roles and roles in management consultancy to keep their skills fresh.

Back in 2006, an IBM manager delivered the opening remarks for a class in Service Management at North Carolina State University. IBM helped to develop the curriculum for the course and actually awarded grants to the university to ensure that the curriculum would be taught. Some professors argue that investments like these are an infringement on academic freedom. However, companies need a prepared workforce, and business schools are not delivering the goods. For its part, IBM invests over $100 million per year in university initiatives. Other corporations should follow their example.

Of course, universities have to draw a line between taking corporate money for corporate priorities and upholding the principles of academic freedom. No one would suggest that universities cede complete control of their curriculum to any corporation. However, forming strategic partnerships with corporations would help business professors to stay in tune with how the business world is changing. Professors would also gain crucial insight into how to solve the talent gap.

Corporations are stingy with their grant money in today’s tight economy. However, with state governments trimming university budgets, schools need funding now more than ever before. If companies step in to help alleviate the funding gap, then they can have an influence on the education of tomorrow’s business leaders. Professors should not hide their rusty and outdated skill sets under the umbrella of academic freedom. And corporations should not stop investing in tomorrow just to protect today’s bottom line.


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