Collaboration between businesses and universities is producing a wide range of benefits and boosting students' prospects.
Organisations involved in these partnerships gain access to new talent, better productivity and improved competitiveness – both in the UK and globally, according to a report, which has been published by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES).
'Forging Futures: Building higher level skills through university and employer collaboration' reveals that universities also benefit, as they are able to provide relevant, up-to-date courses, diversify their offer and enhance employment prospects for their students.
Professor John Coyne, vice-chancellor of the University of Derby and UKCES commissioner, described the trend for more partnerships as a "quiet revolution" in the tertiary education sector.
"There is no one-size-fits-all solution for people to gain the skills they need. Work-based courses are an alternative way for young people and experienced workers to gain high-level skills, and from the report it’s clear there is a lot of great work taking place," he said.
Mr Coyne added that more needs to be done to support these partnerships, so that they become accepted as a mainstream alternative to a traditional degree.
Improving competitiveness and productivity
The UK's economy is currently in a state of transition and the proportion of jobs requiring high-level skills is expected to increase.
Collaborating with universities enables companies to meet these evolving needs, particularly in cases where traditional education and training are insufficient to do so.
In addition, employers often benefit when the training goes beyond their specific sector – for instance, they gain when collaborations lead to sustained growth in supply chains.
Putting in place pathways to industry
Clear routes into employment linking education and training opportunities to necessary skills can enable employers to develop and maintain a skilled workforce. Industry-recognised qualifications, developed with universities, can lead to better movement through the labour market.
Attracting new talent
This is particularly important when a certain sector is expecting significant employment growth (expansion demand) or where it is necessary to replace a large number of staff who are planning to retire (replacement demand).
Working with universities can enable industries to overcome barriers to attracting new recruits, giving them access to a pool of talent with theoretical and practical experience, high levels of knowledge and a good understanding of work culture and employability.
Retaining and training existing staff
Training and staff retention can be improved through collaborative efforts. Staff retention can be boosted as employees are able to develop new skills and take on new challenges, while recognising that their employer is willing to invest in their development.
Organisations are able to integrate the skills of their workforce with long-term goals and this could allow them to change the structure of their organisations, their recruitment policies and their approach to continuing professional development.
Employers are being encouraged to think about which of their skills needs would benefit from collaboration with a university. They should then consider contacting institutions with known expertise in the sector to begin discussions.