What if students could simultaneously gain work experience, salary and university credits?
Sounds too good to be true? Not at all. Colleges have already come up with a model for this by proposing working courseswhich connects students with businesses and other organizations to solve real problems.
Because COVID-19 normalizes remote work, creating such a program has become easier than ever. Business schools at several leading universities, including Stanford, MIT and Berkeleyinclude an increasing number of work courses in their curriculum, allowing students to work on a variety of issues such as starting a startup or reducing the number of homeless people in California.
My experience is assisting in the development and teaching of a work-based course product management As a student at Stanford Business School, he showed me how useful a program can be for students, employers, and universities.
Nowadays, students often develop practical business skills by spending time on academics. But though Stanford Business School prohibits first-year internships, many secretly work for startups or venture firms to hone practical skills. What’s more, most internships are unpaid and provided through communications. Students from less affluent backgrounds, often racial minorities, may feel compelled to choose between supporting themselves through casual work or undergoing an unpaid internship to make their way forward. Few can choose the latter.
In the product management course I helped create, students spent a semester developing products to address the real strategic challenges faced by the well-known social networking platform. For example, one student team developed a feature that would make it easier to create better messages on the platform. During their work, students receive industry and mentoring from senior product managers and other company stakeholders. As with an excellent internship in product management, students developed practical skills and compiled a track record for their resumes. And besides, they also earned credits that were accounted for in their degree.
In addition to these great benefits, work courses allow universities to provide consistent, quality learning by finding and filtering projects and verifying that all work and advice given to students by employers is educational. Students learn and support each other, and teachers teach students the necessary skills and help link lessons in the classroom to their work projects. On the contrary, unpaid internships conducted by the same companies are sometimes of little value to students – their quality varies greatly. Although students did not receive a salary through the Stanford course I helped lead, this benefit is available through some work courses, such as at Banker Hill Community College The program is to learn and earn.
Work-based training courses also benefit employers more than the traditional separate summer internship model. With minimal investment in writing a project brief and participating in a 30-minute weekly call at Zoom, companies get fresh perspectives from students and innovative and theoretically rigorous solutions to their problems. Universities can work with employers to identify suitable projects for their students, pre-educate students, and provide additional mentoring and supervision. Similar to a summer internship, but with less time and resources, companies can use these programs to promote themselves as potential employers and identify potential full-time employees. Given the current labor market and this most companies do poorly with hiringthey may need it.
Universities have always been suspicious of job-oriented training programs, such as the growing number of coding training camps, for good reasons. They believe that such programs often bring in money and give neither career results nor a solid theoretical foundation. “We teach students to think,” my professors often say. However, university education is also criticized not keeping up with the changing trends of the industry and preparing students for the workforce. Work courses bring universities closer to industry trends and improve their career outcomes.
It is time for universities to evolve when it comes to vocational training, otherwise they risk becoming obsolete.