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The Skills’ Gap: Ideas on how business might help educators

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image Leanda Lee - PhD. Assistant Professor, School of Management, Leadership and Government. Coordinator MBA Program and Coordinator Career Centre, USJ

The development of a bridge between education and the business is taking on more and more importance. Jerome S Bruner, an influential educational psychologist, stated that “what we resolve to do in school only makes sense when considered in the broader context of what the society intends to accomplish through its educational investment in the young.” Although he was specifically talking of the cultural environment the message is that what we teach must be relevant to the context in which it is taught. Beyond that, it must be relevant to the future requirements of our community. For educators to understand those needs they must listen to various community stakeholders. Much work is being done and is ongoing in a number of countries to develop a 21st Century framework which includes outcomes and support systems needed to prepare students for 21st century life.  Educators need to learn discern from industry and the community the social, technical, and cognitive skills that are important for work today and tomorrow in Macau and beyond. Should our students know-who, know-how or know-what?

We need to look at the long term needs of the economy and community and expand educational offerings to that level of both scale and scope.  The immediate needs of scope can be met by overseas scholarship as not all disciplines or domains of knowledge are taught or researched here in Macau. Industry involvement would ensure relevance of courses. As an incentive to having industry involvement and investment I suggest that if organisations offer overseas scholarships to local students to study courses not available in Macau or at universities of higher ranking than those in Macau then these companies could be given quota to hire foreign graduates from Macau’s tertiary institutions.  This might achieve a number of positive outcomes. Firstly it increases the number of scholarships available to local students. It also increases the pool of graduates available to industry (more places for locals through overseas scholarship and more non-local graduates available for hire). The quality of foreign students also increases as there would be a higher demand for Macau courses if there was a chance to work in Macau upon graduation.  The above in turn improves the standard within Macau institutions offering a spill-over effect to the local student population.
Local students who study overseas are likely to be positioned ahead of the foreign students graduating from local universities.  Firstly they obtain skills which are not available in Macau institutions and secondly, they are exposed to excellence of education found in institutions ranked above those in Macau. Industry would offer scholarships in areas of need and help bridge the current skills gap. Finally, if student quality should increase so too would the teaching quality as excellence attracts suitably qualified academic staff, thus creating a virtuous cycle further increasing excellence in education and graduate outcomes.

©MDTimes/ University of Saint Joseph

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