Raising standards through industry immersion
Students would much rather learn through on-the-job training or internships, but the demand far exceeds the number of available opportunities. For instance, in a 2012 survey done by Mona Mourshed, Diana Farrell and Dominic Barton for the McKinsey Center of Government, 58 percent of the young respondents said practical, hands-on learning was an effective approach to training. However, only 24 percent of academic-program graduates and 37 percent of vocational graduates said they spent most of their time in this manner. The study, titled “Education to Employment: Designing Systems That Work,” gathered data from 8,000 respondents in nine countries.
Industry immersion exposes students to actual, real-time workplace situations where actions have palpable consequences other than passing or failing grades. Consider then what a well-planned industry immersion program for faculty would mean. Teachers who have practical and up-to-date industry experience in their field of study will most certainly interact more authoritatively with their students. In turn, their students will come away with relevant knowledge and useful competencies. More importantly, a teacher’s extended industry exposure will enable him or her to accurately describe and demonstrate the kind of work ethic that one needs to succeed in the modern workplace.
Here are a couple of excellent examples of such programs for faculty.
Dr. Mike Alba once told us of the faculty immersion program being implemented by the Far Eastern University Institute of Technology, which “aims to provide faculty members, especially those who have not had actual industry experience, an opportunity to work with FEU’s industry partners” such as IBM, PLDT, iWave, Micrologic, Impart Solutions and Health Solutions.
Through the program, faculty members are able to arrive at a concrete understanding and appreciation of the expectations and demands of industry from professionals, and they can therefore prepare and equip the students accordingly. Likewise, the program serves as an avenue by which the faculty can evaluate their competencies in the industry, after which necessary support from the institute can be solicited to address any need for additional training.
The FEU Institute of Technology takes pride in its pool of academicians with relevant industry experience who can effectively teach its industry-driven curricula. It aims to inject a corporate culture in an academic setting so as to afford its students the best simulation of what they can expect when they enter the industry.
In 2012, Orange & Bronze (O&B) Software Labs designed an eight-week faculty immersion program for computer science professors of the Mindanao State University Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU IIT). The aim was to provide them with first-hand experience in Java software development and a front-row seat to the inner workings of a cutting-edge software development company.
O&B is affiliated with the Philippine Software Industry Association and the IT & Business Process Association of the Philippines (Ibpap).
“Corporations like ours have a huge stake in developing the skills of the youth,” remarked O&B cofounder and CEO Calen Legaspi. “In our case, we devote some of our resources to community programs that aim to enhance and improve the knowledge of our future IT professionals.”
One of the program participants was MSU IIT associate professor Alquine Taculin, who said: “I have learned that what we teach in school is quite the opposite of what is practiced in the industry. It is evident that teachers like me lack first-hand experience.” Taculin holds a master’s degree in computer science from the University of the Philippines Los Baños.
Industry immersion for teachers is really nothing new. But if there are few good programs for students, there are quite a number of faculty development opportunities—industry immersion included—available for teachers in higher education institutions. However, based on data from the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd), the main constraints preventing faculty from completing further studies are heavy teaching loads, being recalled by their home institutions, and low stipends.
The nationwide implementation of K-to-12 in 2016 accentuates the problem of drastically reduced college enrollment, which leads to decreased teaching loads and displaced teaching staff. This translates to reduced income for faculty and threatens the viability of higher education institutions themselves. But through its transition program, CHEd sees K-to-12 as “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change the country’s entire education landscape and to bring the Philippines up to par with our neighbors in the Asean region, and into the 21st century.”
The K-to-12 Transition Program aims to mitigate the adverse impact of the transition and leverage the opportunity to upgrade Philippine higher education. It has a proposed budget of P8 billion, which comes from the CHEd budget. Faculty development has a P3-billion allocation. Higher education employees with reduced workload can now engage in various activities—including industry immersion—to develop relevant skills and content knowledge related to the field where they teach or work.
For this to work, industry must identify the gaps among fresh graduates entering the workforce and provide input for curriculum design. Furthermore, the appropriate training modules must be worked on collaboratively with the academe.
Butch Hernandez ([email protected]) is the executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation and education lead for talent development at Ibpap.
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