Australian universities have claimed they offer the business community a return on investment of 4.5 to 1, but poor job readiness of graduates is likely to see their calls for closer collaboration rebuffed.
Speaking at the National Press Club, Universities Australia chair Professor Margaret Gardner said: “Australia’s universities are open for business and we’re here to help”.
“If you have a complex business challenge you haven’t been able to crack, come talk to an Australian university about how we can work together to solve it,” she said.
“By tapping into university talent, business can source new ideas, get the jump on early stage research and cut the time it takes to bring new products to market.”
According to Ms Gardner, the 16,000 Australian businesses already partnered with local universities are receiving a return of $4.50 for every $1 invested in collaborative research, returning a windfall of $10.6 billion in revenue.
“If we could lift the number of firms with formal collaborations with universities from the current 16,000 to 24,000 companies, it would add another $10 billion a year to our GDP,” she said.
However, much of the business sector has a cynical view of Australian universities, claiming that their graduates are entering the workforce poorly educated and not job ready.
Even the Productivity Commission recently lamented that: “It will not be too long before universities will be the key vehicle for skill formation, yet their teaching function plays a subordinate role to their research role, and the outcomes for many graduates are poor.”
Graduates and jobseekers are increasingly becoming aware of this disconnect, too, with a recent survey by careers site JobGetter finding almost two-thirds (65 per cent) of jobseekers feel their education failed to develop the skills needed to succeed at work, with a lack of practical experience being among their chief concerns.
“Many feel that the skills taught in tertiary education related to ‘the way it was done’ rather than ‘the way it is done’, meaning that job seekers often feel they have to retrain in their own time to learn a practical essential skill, such as specific in-demand computer programming languages,” JobGetter said.
However, JobGetter also suggested that employers shoulder some of the blame, for not being more vocal about the skills they actually require.
“That 19 per cent of people [unsure] whether or not they would be skilled enough in new technology highlights a lack of information from employers and educational institutions about what skills are needed and required.”
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.