In order to remain competitive in the world market, corporations must have highly skilled employees who can keep the enterprise economically viable in a global economy. Partnerships between higher education and industry corporations can be a useful strategy in providing workforce training and maintaining knowledgeable employees.
The purpose of this evaluative case study research was to study an existing industry - higher education institution partnership. The specific attributes examined included formation activities, communication and information sharing processes, perceived and actual benefits gained, and challenges that arose and how they were resolved. Data were collected through artifact analysis, an electronic stakeholder survey, and follow-up interviews.
The outcome of the partnership was a 128-hour polymer certification program. Reasons for forming the partnership included improving employee skills, retraining employees, knowledge exchange, and improving product quality. Information shared between partners was centered on the curriculum development process and logistics related to launching the certificate program. Benefits realized by both partners were customized training program development, content knowledge, cost savings, problem solving skills, access to subject matter experts and leading edge products/technology, real life work experience, and increased sales. Challenges realized by both partners were timeliness of communication and project work completion, lack of clarity of mutually agreed upon goals, and resource availability.
Conclusions included that the partnership formation process was straightforward based on the industry training needs and the higher education institution expertise. Second, the problems of communication and loss of focus towards goals are likely to be expected in a partnership. Third, partnerships are difficult and a project manager is needed. And lastly, an evaluation of the partnership process itself must be incorporated into the process. This case study research supports that industry - higher education institution partnerships can continue to prove beneficial in the future.
Recommendations include: (1) monthly feedback sessions to assess partner satisfaction and the partnership progress, (2) a "lessons learned" session at the end of curriculum development to determine if the partnership goals were reached, and (3) a capstone review session to integrate feedback results from individual classes and to gauge partner satisfaction with the partnership outcomes.