The Case for Corporate College

In my previous article, “Reviving Youth Unemployment”, I brought up a new development in global education called corporate college. Here I would like to provide a snapshot of corporate college and how it can be game changing solution for government, corporate and university.

If you Google keyword “corporate college”, you will see a long list of corporate colleges around the world. Predominantly in the United States where each state has at least one bearing the state’s name, while other name such as Corporate College LLC, Global Corporate College which may have different customers appeal. In summation, this is indeed a remarkable improvement and advancement since I first researched about it 2 years ago and brought this idea to my board meeting early this year. This is awesome – at least the quantity of corporate colleges blossoming and lets hope competition will weed the weakest and nourish the quality ones.

Life long learning is a skill and modern workforce has to learn to master it.
Life long learning is a skill and modern workforce has to learn to master it.

In Malaysia, the corporate college term is new and foreign. Even as I speak about it to people around the university, they don’t quite like the idea because it will definitely mixing the academic and industry resources in this melting pot called corporate college. Well, I couldn’t argue further because I could see the reasons for such apprehensive gesture. Nonetheless, by not doing anything it is equally if not more harmful to the nation. I just hope in that kindred spirit to build Malaysia’s talent pool and remedy future’s talent pipeline and marketability, something has to be done NOW NOW NOW.

Corporate college can be easily a misleading concept of training centre or academy. I have seen it many places and work with corporate training centres. In training centres normally they are human resource executives, training executives and administrators. These people coordinate training programs for the organization by engaging external training providers, once a while they call in industry experts to give pep talks and seminars. In training centres they also conduct psychometric assessment to gauge their employees emotional state and when the new top management come, the people in the training centre will also tasked to look for vendors to formulate new workforce development program. They sometimes do this by working collaboratively with the HQ human resource team. On top of that, they are also required to become a business centre where they need to “sell” their internal expertise from the organization (usually technical expertise) to other small medium enterprises or provide some consultancy to other sister companies and so on. This could be a simplistic example but my point is this is not a corporate college and I am sorry to say this is not even a properly run training or knowledge development centre. Sometimes, in the desperate need for us to become “entrepreneurial” and “business savvy”, we forget that we should only sell good stuffs to our customers, not half-baked or questionable solutions that we ourselves are not convinced. If you only let the industry run a training centre, knowledge is for trading. 🙂

On the other hand, in the university not less glaring where its always about research; endless research. Recent article in The Economist, “How Science Goes Wrong”, September 2013; was an eye opener that as much as 50% of publications are almost impossible to be replicated or scale up for mass production. We are talking about billion of dollars down the drain and it is an on-going squandering frenzy unaddressed. On the positive side, university research could provide groundbreaking evidence, clearer direction and profound examples that many industry organizations yet to capitalize. Presently, there is very poor collaboration between the university and industry players because one party requires a lot of money and the other wishes to spend the least possible. Interestingly, both are aiming at the same objectives; building this nation.

Corporate college could be the solution. We can start by revamping community colleges and smaller private entities. Don't let pilot programs fool you.
Corporate college could be the solution. We can start by revamping community colleges and smaller private entities. Don’t let pilot programs fool you.

Corporate college can help to become the middle path solution, at least it helps by converging resources and most importantly the thinking behind how to grow this nation through properly run talent development. In corporate college, there will be academician that could help in the research and act as the knowledge bank of the program. If you have hang around with academicians, you would understand what I mean. They are very knowledgeable, dedicated, smart and they are givers. They like to contribute and they want to make a difference. Most academicians I have met always willing to support nation building cause with small fees to them. The academicians from education could help in developing the program structure, designing the assessment and examination, deciding the path for professional development and act as student guide.

In corporate college, the industry player could help in providing critical information about the direction of the business and what kind of people and skills required to achieve its goals. Since industry players meet a lot of clients, they could also share what the customers want and how is it possible to do it by asking the academicians. I am certain there will be some arguments and debates, and it only takes an objective mind and sincere heart to make the arguments work both ways and benefit both parties. The industry top management and middle managers could also share and teach the young workers. They could learn “how to teach” from the academicians and they will become better teacher very quickly. In the process, the researchers would observe and take note of the opportunities to uncover certain issues or make improvement on current manufacturing practice that could help the company more productive and efficient in the next few years. On teaching, I have this Chinese proverb to quote, “If you plan for a year sow rice, if you plan for a decade plan trees, if you plan for a lifetime educate people.”

In Malaysia, there is a need to have some regulation on the programs offered otherwise the students only get junks and binge-studying. The involvement of government should be considered in the area of evaluating and accrediting the right program that meet the objectives. The Malaysian Quality Assurance (MQA) should be roped in and engaged actively to ensure it is not just paper exercise. In several research university (RU), there’s self accreditation authority that would speed up the process. I strongly believe the university in Malaysia should learn how to use this self accreditation more to enable and boost the development of professional program. Currently, most professional development programs are from other international universities. From what I know, Malaysian researchers are very good and dedicated. I believe we already have many powerful researches that could be scale up or perhaps be given the space to become national exports especially in service related research.

"Your actions express your priorities."
“Your actions express your priorities.”

In conclusion, I believe with an open mindset to work things out, all parties including government, industry and university could work things out; perhaps to do something game changing like corporate college. There’s always opportunity to discuss the business model around it and making it a success. From my observation, the private universities are also making moves into the development of solid professional development and certifications. I have yet to see more involvement of public universities and other smaller private colleges in this space. I always give this silly but true example of a multi-level marketing company (MLM) set up their own academy and dish out a diploma in multi-level marketing, apparently it was widely accepted as the de-facto standard of MLM industry. Jaw-drop if you like but sometimes reality hurts. I would like to end this article with a quote, “The problem with this world is the wise is full of doubts and the fool is full of confident.”

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