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Universities grow programs for up-skilling and re-skilling industry partners’ employees

Excerpted from the November 2022 issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. UIDP members can view the entire issue here.

A number of universities have long-standing programs for employees of industry partners that enable them to enhance their skill sets and their career prospects, ranging from certificate programs to advanced degrees. More recently, however, with the advent of technological advances that threaten to leave many employees behind, combined with the prospects of severe talent shortages as far as the eye can see, industry has been requiring even more programs for employees whose skill sets no longer match the job requirements of the future — and universities have been responding.

“Technological disruptions have caused quite a shift in the kinds of solutions we are providing — especially by way of up-skilling and re-skilling workforces,” says Anna Koulas, MBA, vice president, Drexel Solutions Institute. While Drexel University has been providing custom training to partners for over two decades, the Drexel Solutions Institute was launched five years ago “to serve as a centralized unit to assist companies with tapping into the university’s broader resources,” she says.

“We’ve had a dedicated corporate training department for 20-plus years. The need came out of a lot of local companies who sent their employees to our open enrollment programs,” adds Brian Breen, chief corporate engagement and partnerships officer with UC-Irvine. “Today we see a much greater need for cohort-based, custom training specific to industry, the projects they run, and their nomenclature.”

He adds that a significant number of employees have sign on via the university’s public enrollment for up-skilling as well.

“The main and health sciences campuses at the University of Utah have historically offered up-skilling programs, as we’ve always recognized the importance of strengthening relationships with and meeting the needs of our industry partners,” says Patti Ross, MBA, CPA, chief corporate engagement officer at the University of Utah. “The pandemic, coupled with justified calls for a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive society, have reshaped our world in recent years. We’ve doubled down on seeking out partnerships and offering certificates and courses through several channels to meet growing demand.”

In addition, she adds, “we’ve honed our focus in an effort to be responsive to global challenges and the ever-changing backdrop of higher education, health care, and fast-paced technological developments, all of which require thoughtful and nimble consideration and implementation.” In fact, she adds, while the university’s well-known PIVOT Center continues to be a catalyst for innovation, “the newly created Office for Corporate Engagement further underscores the importance of all facets of industry partnerships to higher education.”

“Our Executive Education Program has been offered for over 60 years,” notes Julia Beckner, talent and career services consultant at The Ohio State University.

“The program has been very helpful in up-skilling and re-skilling,” adds Alissa Comella, OSU’s associate vice president of corporate partnerships, “but now we also have a center for automotive research and several other centers that do short courses. It helps keep pace with industry; there are increased expectations that universities can play a role in this, and not just look in the past.”

Excerpted from the November 2022 issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. UIDP members can access the complete article and the entire issue here. Other practitioners may subscribe to receive the UIEA newsletter at