Filling gap between academia and industry imperative: Qasim Ali Shah

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By Shahida Naveed

LAHORE, June 10 (Diplomatic Star): Filling the gap between academia and industry is a matter of time and a pressing challenge in creation of sustainable and prosperous society.

These views were expressed by the well-known authors of Pakistan, a teacher, corporate trainer, and an inspirational speaker Qasim Ali Shah in a consultative meeting held here at Qasim Ali Shah Foundation.

Qasim Ali Shah said that the focus and aim of our campaign is to get people from the industry to go to educational institutions and bring students in line with the current industrial requirements so that the unemployment rate in the country can be reduced.

He said that Pakistan is a developing country with ample human resources available. With around 2.5 million plus population how much of these resources is effectively used is the billion dollar question.!

The same question applies when it comes to our graduates. Every year around  hundreds of thousands are passing out, Pakistan, he said now become a factory churning out graduates. According to the recent reports hardly 7% of them are employable and the ratio is traveling down as years pass by. Why is that out of many graduates only handful of people are employable, he remarked.

He was off the view that its all because of industry-academia gap in the country. Academia gap is emerging because there is something lacking. So what is lacking in our education system? How to bridge the gap between academia and industry? Let us take a practical view of addressing this gap with 5 recommendations from our side.

He said that an effective collaboration between academia and industry has the potential of boosting our economy and transforming the fortunes of our country whilst ensuring growth.

He said that when educational institutions of higher learning and industry come together in a working symbiotic relationship, both will find a common ground to meet each other’s needs and create a substantial and sustainable win-win situation for all.

Sadly, Qasim Ali Shah said that there is not much that can be said about this ideal relationship. Academic institutions and industries are performing on their own terms without little or no coordination and collaboration. And as a consequence of that, academia ends up producing graduates or a workforce that industry cannot engage to advance their cause for the common good of all.

He explained that some of the principal factors creating the ever-widening gap between academia and industry includes; lack of interactions between the two entities, lecturers or faculty lacking industrial exposure, the examination or evaluation process used in assessing students’ performance, industry not getting involved in curriculum review and development and students lacking employ-ability skills amongst other factors.

Sharing thoughts on the issues other speakers of the meeting also spokes about academia and industry gap.

giving remarks on the matter, Dr. Shahid Munir, Vice Chancellor, University of Jhang said that the academy should strengthen its link with the industry and add industry experts to its board to tell the academy what matters need to be worked on at the moment.

Dr. Nizam, Former Chairman, Punjab Higher Education Commission said that in developed countries, degree programs are updated after four years. We should also upgrade our education system according to the requirements of the new era. (Dr. Nizam, Former Chairman, Punjab Higher Education Commission.

He said that unemployment in any country is a grave concern. It can be attributable to multiple factors like slow economic growth, slow industrial growth, lack of investment opportunities etc. There is another important aspect which is often ignored.

While concern is severe but can be addressed with mutual co-operation of academia and industry. speaker of the meeting stressed on few areas that shall be addressed are;

Revision & Alignment of Curriculum with Industry requirements

It’s time to ascertain gaps in curriculum to make it more practical. This can be achieved through involvement of industry specialists while devising the curriculum. This shall not be a onetime activity but shall be continue brainstorming activity. In fast paced global village nothing is constant.

Industry exposure

It shall be mandatory for the graduates to have industry exposure for example Internships etc. While academia can argue that internships are already in place but in most of cases this model has failed miserably.

While for academia it’s just a formality and for industry these interns are mostly restrained to clerical activities ranging from filing of documents to setting up racks at day end. In rare case scenarios they gain relevant practical knowledge. This need to be addressed with more rigorous controls from academia towards monitoring interns as well as setting key objectives for industry to be delivered during internships.

Industry-experienced teachers & professors

Gaining industry experience shall not be restrained only to students, it shall be compulsory for the teachers and professors to have relevant industry experience. I belief theoretical model has its own worth but without practical exposure it cannot be translated into real life scenarios. This shall not imply that PHD professors are losing worth. They have own strengths with research back ground that shall be topped up with industry knowledge and to be updated regularly.

In addition academia shall invite industry professionals with relevant subject knowledge to share practical insights with students. This activity shall be done regularly.

Incubation centers

Each university shall have its own startup incubators, whereby students shall be given an opportunity to share and test ideas under supervision of not only academia but also industry professional. They shall be provided with relevant resources financial or otherwise. This can ultimately not only broadens horizons of an individual but can improve Institutes ranking multifold.

Entrepreneurship and Commercial Viability

Technical knowledge shall be bridged with business knowledge. No technical project can be successful without a business case and vice-versa no project can be successful without analyzing its technical aspects.

Academia shall devise courses in a way that this gap can be addressed. Business graduates shall be able to understand technical aspects and vice versa.

Academic Research

Academic research shall be tuned towards bridge the gap between knowledge producers and knowledge users. Academic researchers shall come up research papers that are addressing core industry problems and shall be more practical. Research shall not only focused on developing new ideas & products but also ensure its practical worth.

In short, both academia and industry has to work together to being in necessary synergies focused towards delivering quality graduates that can play effective role in economy progression.