I had a very interesting discussion recently with a couple of very successful entrepreneurs and the Dean of a University faculty. The discussion centred around the fact that each year very bright students graduate from universities with an excellent grounding in their discipline of choice, but not necessarily a decent understanding of the business world which many of them are about to enter.
Some of the issues that we discussed will be no surprise to those of you who also run businesses, but it appears that there are those who will be surprised.
Students may have an excellent grounding in engineering, computer science, law or any other discipline but they lack a basic understanding of the “real world”.
1. Students generally enter the workforce feeling that their technical skills are all they need.
2. They have no real concept about how business works.
3. They most often do not relate how their work ties in to company profits … ie. if it isn’t profitable then you are not going to be doing it for long.
4. They have trouble working in teams, and pulling their weight.
5. They do not have a good understanding of, nor appreciation for, the importance of sales and marketing.
6. They often do not have good communication skills, either verbal or written. Nor do they see the value in these skills.
7. They often do not have good presentation skills.
8. They often do not understand the importance of how they present themselves, through their dress choices.
9. They are not receptive to feedback designed to help them improve.
10. They have no appreciation for the bigger picture, global trends and the geo-political climate.
11. There was also a sense that many new employees arrive with the sense that they have now earned their right to a job, instead of the attitude that they now have to work harder than ever!
It was an interesting discussion that highlighted a gap between academia and business that can, with a little effort, be closed appreciably. I think that there is a will to make this work, on both sides and it will be interesting to see if, here in Ottawa, we can make a little progress down that path. The feeling of this little group was that if we can’t make progress with these issues then Canadian competitiveness will continue to be eroded and we will lose more and more to “offshore” competition.
More to come …