Bridging the Gap between Academia and the Industry.
According to Nelson Mandela, “education is the most potent weapon with which one can change the world.” Consequently, lack of education causes a stagnant world, limited production of human capital and innovations, as well as a crippled economy.
With a growing economy, Nigeria is also witnessing the growth of the education sector. However, the Nigerian academia and industry are not convinced about the employability and job readiness of the graduates. Every year, around 600,000 graduates are churned out from Nigeria’s educational institutions, but according to reports, reports also show that 80 to 90 per cent of them are unemployable and do not have the critical skills that the industries need. Many argue that it’s because their curriculum does not align with industrial needs. Alshare and Sewailem (2018) confirm that a gap exists between the skills needed for students in the job market and the competencies and skills they have upon graduation.
For Academia, several scholars have reported the current university curriculum as ineffective and inapplicable in today’s industry. In his work, Bongomin, et al., (2020) reported that the current university education framework finds context in the preceding three industrial revolutions which demanded more ‘generalists’ than ‘specialists’ in most industries. Unlike the current job market of industry 4.0 which requires learners to be more of the latter, and with human skills that the “AI is unable to replicate” (Peters, 2017). As a consequence, Academia currently produces graduates or a workforce that industry does not need and cannot engage to advance their cause for the common good of all, in spite of lowered hiring standards and conduct of training programs.
The fourth industrial revolution (IR 4.0) brought a significant change in the business world that is characterised by a fusion of inventions and technologies, like artificial intelligence, large data analytics, internet, cloud computing, nanotechnology (Hirschi, 2018), that enable industries to produce greater quality products, faster and at lower costs. In fact, Zainad and Bishnol (2020) analysed that IR 4.0 is “growing at a rapid geometrical pace relative to the arithmetic growth of its predecessors’’. To this end, Schwab (2016) noted that the only probable prediction is that skill and aptitude will surpass capital as the critical factor of production. Hence, both parties must see to the production of a workforce capable of serving industry needs and delivering inclusive economic growth. Else, the nation bears the resulting losses of the conundrum.
The principal factor creating the ever-widening gap between these two institutions; particularly in Nigeria, is competition causing ineffective collaboration. According to several scholars, the institutional bodies see each other as competitors; rather than pieces of a puzzle that is both needed to be whole. Professor Joseph Afolayan, Vice-Chancellor of Anchor University, reinforces this problem in a Premium Times interview. Hence, there is a very clear gap between them with regards to agreeing to a consensus in literature and theory that comprehensively identifies the fundamental components that will equip learners and graduates ready for the ‘industry 4.0’.
Isaac (2019) pointed out this lack of cooperation continues to lead to the production of theory geniuses who do not know how to translate theories to money-making knowledge and products that can be utilized for economic development. Other gap-causing factors that have been reported are; facilitators/faculty lacking industrial exposure, the examination or evaluation process used in assessing students’ performance, absence of industry participation in curriculum development and review (Osei-Poku, Osei, Adjei-Boateng & Howard, 2018) amongst many others.
There are several mutual benefits that can emerge from the collaborations of Academia and Industry. One of such is the adoption of open innovation strategies that will increase access to knowledge sources and collaboration interest, that will foster social and economic transformation. With this, the Academia will also get to enrich its teaching and research activities, increase financial funding for its projects, as well as become a source for empirical data. The Industry, on its part, will also benefit by accessing the latest technological advances from new ideas, laboratory usage for research, as well as an easy workforce recruitment. Hence, there is the need for both parties to adjust their systems, give credence to proprietary research from the Academia and attract investment from the latter.
Researchers have made several recommendations for dealing with this gap. For instance, Larkin (2014) suggested the use of collaborative projects and internships while Laryea (2020) recommended building a partnership centre where seminars or symposiums are held to discuss new ideas and innovations for advancement. Singh & Sharma (2014) also suggested building Centers of Excellence, and effective industry involvement to the faculty pool. All these show that a conscious effort should be made by both parties and all other stakeholders involved to establish a partnership that focuses on this cause.
At Semicolon Africa, we are constantly on the lookout for partnerships. We recently started working on The Bridge project of the British Council and are doing this as the ecosystem partner with Lagos Business School and Henley Business School, UK. In line with our activities, we hosted a design meet and greet themed “Bridging the Design Skills gap and Industry Needs, with representative guests from the academia and industry. In addition to that, we also played host to Henley Business School who spent one week equipping our learners with business skills.
No doubt, there is an urgent need for all stakeholders to come together to address the needs of the 21st-century market so as to ensure skilled human resource, better systems and structures are in place for profitable economic growth. Until this is duly done, can the Academia and Industry find a common ground to meet each other’s needs and bring about substantial win-win situations and innovations that will transform African economies, as a whole.
Alshare, K., & Sewailem, M. F. (2018). A gap analysis of business students’ skills in the 21st century: a case study of Qatar. Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, 22(1), 1–22.
Hirschi, A. (2018). The fourth Industrial revolution: Issues and implications for career research and practice. The Career Development Quarterly, 66(3), 192–204
Larkin, M. (2014). Building successful partnerships between academia and industry. Elsevier connect. Retrieved from https://www.elsevier.com/connect/building-successful-partnerships-between-academia-and-industry
Laryea, O. S. (2020). The need to bridge the gap between academia, industry and policy makers. Accessed October 2021 from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/need-bridge-gap-between-academia-industry-policy-makers-laryea
Osei-Poku, P., Osei, J., Adjei-Boateng, E., & Howard, E. K. (2018). Curriculum development and student training: A shared responsibility between clothing and textile institutions and their industry. British Journal of Education, 6(5), 9–17.
Peters, M. A. (2017). Technological unemployment: educating for the fourth industrial revolution. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 49(1), 1–6.
Schwab, K. (2016). The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond., World Economic Forum., Retrieved from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-fourth-industrial-revolution-what-it-means-and-how-to-respond
Zainad, S. & Bishnol, M. M. (2020). An effective framework for bridging the gap between Industry and Academia. International Journal on Emerging Technologies 11(3): 454–461.