In your editorial "Graduate Grouses" (THES, January 13) you note that "the worlds of the executive and academic are still far apart". The lack of what industry is looking for in graduates is described as "business awareness and communication skills", together with leadership, the ability to work in a team and problem-solving.
From 1989 to 1994, I was director of a small postgraduate institute set up to teach practical management. We concentrated on developing precisely these skills: over nine months we trained ten to 15 highly qualified students who had just completed their initial theoretical training. The course was extremely selective - students were chosen for their initiative and dynamism. It was financed at the outset by the French ministry of industry with the regional and county councils and funds collected from industry. It was one of nine such provincial institutes set up in response to complaints from French industrialists.
Students worked full-time on concrete everyday projects. In groups of three they were given work to do in the following fields: setting up a company, helping the official receiver save a company in trouble, evaluation of a successful company, development of a company and communication. There were also three months as a assistant to a company director and two weeks in sales.
There were no "theoretical" classes. There was also an intensive course on accounting and finance and a one-week seminar on the human relations aspects of management. In educational terms this programme was outstandingly successful.
Such a course makes it clear that the encouragement of initiative and risk-taking narrows the gap between industry and academia. This programme was a private venture and finance was one of the greatest difficulties encountered. Sadly only three of the nine institutes remain.
Such a pragmatic course in management is a must if we are to help young graduates and the country climb out of recession. However it is necessary to establish sufficient funding from both industry and state to ensure that such a programme can operate efficiently and effectively to develop and encourage in graduates the business awareness and acumen.
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