Business schools form a vital link between the industry leaders of today and those of the future. Their challenge is to deliver programmes that meet the needs of both groups.
THERE’S NO SINGLE recipe for business success; but connecting with clients, suppliers and industry partners to collaborate and build relationships is certainly a valuable ingredient. And it’s an approach that business schools are increasingly taking, as the educators of our future business owners and leaders.
Professor Geoff Perry, Dean of the AUT Business School, says business schools everywhere are looking at ways to enhance their relevance and strengthen their impact on both academic and non-academic stakeholders (ie business and industry).
“There’s a general trend across the world to ensure those connections are strong, so that we’re aware of what’s going on, we have an impact, and what we’re doing is relevant and useful,” he says.
To achieve this goal, the Business School fosters its own connections with industry, and also develops programmes and projects that give students real-world knowledge and opportunities for hands- on learning. The content for its courses is partly informed by the advisory committees the Business School regularly meets with, and its ongoing consultation with industry.
In the past year alone, the Business School has run 55 engagement activities involving industry and staff or senior students.
“We’re looking more at co- curricular activities such as events that give students opportunities to collaborate and connect with each other, and with industry outside of the classroom,” says Perry.
“An important aspect of educating students is connecting them to external stakeholders. They don’t come for three years and simply do a theoretical course – they get grounded in the real issues businesses are facing. It’s about real connections with real businesses.”
Among the School’s initiatives, Shadow a Leader pairs a final-year business or law student with a final-year secondary student. Together they spend the day following a business leader. “It’s a chance for the leader to inspire and give something back to potential future leaders,” explains Perry. “It gives the students a connection with a leader in the community and an understanding of what they do. It works really well. This year we had 75 leaders involved – many had come back wanting to do it again.”
Fuji Xerox Inspire, another popular annual event, sees 400 school student leaders spend a day at AUT attending sessions with inspirational achievers and leaders in industry and the community.
As already happens at overseas business schools, AUT is also focusing on bringing together students across disciplines, such as design, communications, engineering and business, to collaborate on real projects and apply their knowledge to a range of real-life scenarios.
Naturally, business graduates are much more employable if they have an ability to apply and understand what’s going on in the world and particularly in the New Zealand context, says Perry.
“Linking business with other areas exposes students to different paradigms and ways of thinking and that’s really powerful.
“For business schools, adapting our curriculum and how we deliver learning isn’t just about what will attract students in a tight domestic market.
“It’s about recognising that deep and engaged learning happens more effectively if students are excited and involved in what they’re learning. By bringing in real issues that they understand, we enhance their learning.”