10 Ways Industry and Education Can Work Together Better

Two hands shaking in the middle of the image.

As in all healthy relationships, communication is key.

Clint Hankinson,

Director of Marketing,


AS TECHNOLOGY ADVANCES exponentially and the needs of industry broaden and become more specialized, the relationship between industry and

higher education is more important than ever. Industry requires skilled workers to maintain and increase their speed of growth, and higher education is tasked with preparing those workers.

As in all healthy relationships, communication is the key. And great communication never happens by accident. Leaders on both sides must be intentional about clearly communicating their needs, challenges, and desires. At the same time, they both must be willing to listen to what the other side is saying—and then to respond, and to work together to develop action plans for improvement.

The best way to start the conversation is for industry and higher education leadership to reach out to one another and build personal relationships. Higher education presidents, deans, and professors should regularly engage with industry executives and HR leaders—and vice versa. But we’re all busy—everyone is busy—so we seldom budget the time for a meetup with our peers at Starbucks.

Fortunately, there are a wide variety of ways to solve this problem beyond conversations over coffee. Here are 10 actionable steps that industry and higher education leaders can take:

Higher Education

Serve on workforce development committees sponsored by local and state government offices and/or chambers of commerce. These committees offer a quick connection point that leaders can continue “offline.” They also show others who the proactive leaders truly are.

Attend relevant industry conferences. These events provide valuable insight into industry trends and subjects and offer excellent opportunities for connecting with employers.

Host industry conferences/sessions. In addition to attending events, higher education should host, or serve as the venue, for them. A host enjoys greater access and can develop deeper relationships through this role.

Invite industry professionals to speak in class. Higher education leaders benefit from the industry relationship and information, while students gain new industry knowledge and a connection to the company providing the speaker.

Create minors and/or certificates that provide agile solutions to industry needs. Developing new degree options that aren’t subject to the same accreditation approval processes enables higher education to respond more nimbly to continually changing needs.


Serve on workforce development committees. Industry leaders can join higher education and show their commitment to solving their community’s workforce challenges.

Attend career fairs hosted by higher education. By participating in these events, industry leaders benefit from connecting with potential employees, discovering what students are currently learning, and meeting higher education leaders for ongoing engagement.

Provide grants and/or sponsorships to higher education for industry resources. Industry leaders can help ensure that students are learning cutting-edge skills by providing specific tools and resources and making them available to students (technology, software, etc.)

Create research opportunities. Industry can offer research opportunities that students can fulfill. By completing the projects, students gain relevant real-world knowledge and skills, while industry leaders benefit from low-cost workers—and may discover new employee prospects in the process.

Launch an apprenticeship program. A registered apprenticeship program offers benefits to the students (education, mentoring, and fulltime employment); to the industry employer (tax credits, minimal risk, and cost savings); and to higher education (matching students and employers, future reskill/upskill opportunities, and new industry relationships).

With technology accelerating at such a blazing pace, it’s harder than ever to keep our tech workers up to industry speed. That’s why a strong relationship between higher education and industry is critical. If either one thinks the other isn’t doing their part, the relationship suffers and the entire community pays the price. An intentional strategy of communication, along with nimble, workable solutions, is the vital building block for ongoing success.