How to Attract Top Industry Talent

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  •  Dec 12, 2013
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Five tips on how to make a compelling case for industry experts to come on-board

Increasing competition between higher educational institutions to create industry ready pass-outs is building a strong case for them to develop close ties with industry. One way in which institutes can tap latest industry know-how and introduce students to industry practices is to get on-board, either as regular faculty or as guest lecturers, individuals with industry experience.

Individuals hailing from the industry are clued up on industry trends, practices and procedures. As such, they are best suited to give students the lowdown on how corporations actually work or share updates from research labs. Ashok Mittal, Chancellor, Lovely Professional University says, Their first-hand knowledge translates into better knowledge delivery skills. And the insights they deliver prove invaluable for students preparing to enter the workforce. Essentially, having been there and done that, industry experts know precisely what knowledge to impart to students and what practical training will prove most useful for them.

According to Dr Sharmistha Banerjee, Head, Department of Business Management, University of Calcutta, They have a more expansive repertoire of cases and projects for case-based and project-based teaching. Students that get second-hand industry exposure through their eyes and ears can actually experience a smoother transition from learning to doing.

Inviting industry experts as guest lecturers also helps strengthen campus recruiting. Dr Banerjee says, State universities can afford to do very little to publicise their courses and facilities. Inviting senior industry personnel to interact with students helps spread awareness and often opens doors to new campus-recruitment avenues.

Evidently, making industry experts part of your team is a win-win situation provided that you get the right persons on-board to teach the right subjects and can keep their interest alive. Here are some tips to make recruitment from industry a success:

1Bring them on-board for subjects that are rapidly evolving

Karnatak University recently announced plans to hire professionals having a postgraduate degree and 15 years industry experience as visiting faculty in the fields of management, information technology, journalism and bio-technology. The university expects these experts to play a big role in honing students because they have insights that academics lack. One of the biggest incentives to get industry experts on-board is to bridge the gap between what is being taught in colleges and current industry practices.

Its a gap that Dr Niranjan Chiplunkar, Principal of NMAM Institute of Technology (Nitte), believes is fast growing in the fields of technology and engineering because of rapid technological advancements and the misplaced belief that learning should focus on fundamentals instead of covering the foundation principles as well as new technologies. By this yardstick, industry experts are best suited to teach subjects that are rapidly evolving. Bring in industry experts for courses like project management, software engineering, ERP, supply chain management, and core technology courses such as cloud computing, mobile application development, storage infrastructure etc., recommends Dr Chiplunkar.

2 Ensure that they are passionate about academia

Teachers are mentors of young minds. They wield tremendous influence over the next generation. Its a huge responsibility to carry and one that stands apart from driving forward business. Therefore, prospective faculty must show some bent of mind towards honing young minds and making a difference in society. Making the switch from full-time engagement with industry to academics is a big decision. A prospective candidate must have the urge to seek satisfaction from intangible rewards and intellectual gains , observes Dr Banerjee. Asking questions like what is your inspiration? and what are your career goals and objectives? duringinterviews can help identify individuals who will become successful academicians.

3Make offers that they cant refuse

Money is a big motivator for industryveterans to quit business and join academics, full-time or part-time. Its also a big question mark. In spite of a quantum jump in faculty remuneration, industry experts still have reservations about beingadequately rewarded for their efforts, observes Mittal. He recommends evaluating prospective faculty for their worth and offering them a package commensurate with their academic qualifications, teaching experience, academic skills, industryexposure and research proficiency.

Accepting conventional scales as delimiters doesnt always work, he cautions. In Central and State universities where pay scales are fixed and the prescribed must-haves (qualifications, teaching experience, publishing credits etc) for senior faculty positions are rarely met even by industry veterans, individuals from industry can only be considered for junior positions. Persons with 5 to 7 years of experience may consider taking up faculty positions.

Salary scales at this level are competitive enough to encourage a switch from industry to academics, opines Dr Banerjee. Abysmally low UGC-prescribed honorariums for visiting faculty can be a big put off too. Karnatak Universitys experience has been that followingUGC guidelines is not enough to attract experts. So this year onwards the university is making a budgetary allocation to offer such hires two year contracts paying a consolidated remuneration.

4 Show them what they stand to gain

Another common deterrent for industry experts to enter the portals of higher education institutions is the lack of glamour and excitement associated with teaching. Go-getters seek industry positions believing that these throw up challenges and newness and amply reward them for measuring up. Showing your commitment to furthering research can help spice up faculty positions and attract industry talent.

Capable individuals with academic leanings usually possess a yearning to add to the existing pool of knowledge through cutting-edge research. In fact, it works both ways.

Now that knowledge is no longer seen as stagnant, a research oriented mind-set is one of the most important qualities to look-for in a prospective faculty. The quantity and quality of research a university conducts enhances its standing and attracts bright students. Creating a nurturing environment in which industry hires can bloom to their full potential helps attract industry talent. Providing good physical and information technology-oriented infrastructure and research facilities is sure to attract people with hands-on experience, opines Mittal. Faculty development is also equally important. Institutes that hold regular Faculty Development Programmes and invest in faculty succeed in drawing industry talent.

5 Use technology to reach out to experts

Information and communication technologies (ICT) have made it possible for instructors to teach any course from afar, even across borders, without wasting time on travel. Still, Dr Chiplunkar believes that new ICT technology is best suited to supplement regular class room teaching, not to replace it. University of Calcutta is creating a centralised web-conferencing setup to serve all of its departments. Dr Banerjee expects the new facility to amplify opportunities to get on-board resource personsSince most large corporations are centred in the north or in the west of the country, the local pool of industry personnel to tap is limited. But inviting guest lecturers from other parts of the country can be quite expensive. Web-conferencing will allow us to invite such experts without incurring high costs. Nowadays, most companies have web-conferencing enabled meeting rooms, which the guest lecturer can use. If need be, invitees take permission from their management to deliver guest lectures and to use the companys web-conferencing facility. Using technology for video lectures or telepresence can sometimes work out better than live classrooms in terms of collaborative inputs specially if you have multiple campuses.

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