What Is an Academic Partnership and Why Invest?

Academic partnerships create mutually beneficial relationships between students, faculty, education stakeholders, and companies. Partnerships are facilitated to spark student interest in industry, create innovative career pathways, and cultivate research and commercialization activity. These relationships ideally generate talent that is customized to the current and future needs of your company, while creating a robust economic ecosystem for the region.

Types of Partnerships

Ranging from K-12 schools to technical colleges and universities, partnerships should be as diverse as your workforce to engage on multiple skill levels and among various interests. Not only should schools be a part of your company’s partnership but also community, regional, and state education programs and stakeholders.

The first step is getting to know the environment, resources, and potential champions for your endeavors in your region and state. Engaging in educational events, connecting with chamber and economic development entities, and serving on workforce and education boards are great places to start.


Starting at the elementary level, you can begin to inspire students to learn more about STEM or business through real-world applications and activities. Develop engagements that are fun, meaningful, and applicable to the audience. Collaborate with educators to create relevant activities and events. Pick a spokesperson who relates well to younger students and has an exciting energy about them.

For high school groups, your program can show students real career possibilities through job shadowing, interactive events, and pre-apprenticeships. Speak to students in the classroom about what it takes to prepare for a productive career and the many pathways available to them.

Colleges and Universities

Technical and community colleges are often a great place to find work-ready talent for a variety of positions in your company. Building a strong recruitment and collaboration strategy with these partners will maximize the workforce outcomes for your company. Collaborations should focus on sharing specific industry needs and skills with the partner so that curriculum and programs successfully prepare students to enter the workforce. Additionally, community colleges can provide tailored workforce training for your employees, promoting pathways for career advancement within your business. Working together on grant opportunities and other funding proposals that strengthen curriculum and programs will also increase the positive outcomes of the partnership.

Finally, university partnerships are essential to attracting and retaining talent within your company. Connecting with faculty, administration, and career services is the first step in developing a clear understanding of the type of students you aim to hire. Then, developing a strategic plan to engage with students is a must. Beyond recruitment, consider research and student projects as effective avenues to building a thriving academic partnership. Research and commercialization projects with universities can provide a tremendous return on investment for the company through technology transfer, innovation culture, and talent acquisition.  


The major benefits of developing academic partnerships include increased stakeholder engagement, access to economic development resources, sustainable talent pipelines tailored to your company’s needs, research and commercialization outcomes, and affordable skill-building for current employees. The manufacturing industry is projected to have 3.4 million jobs by 2025, and with the lack of skilled workers, 2 million of those jobs will remain vacant. When companies engage intentionally with the education community and accompanying stakeholders, it creates a competitive advantage for all participants by growing the talent ecosystem mutually between partners. Developing an academic partnership program creates a sense of unity between your company and community. It shows that you are dedicated to the future of your region, your industry, and the next generation of business leaders. These partnerships will undoubtedly contribute to the sustainability and profitability of your company by providing a unique value proposition of diverse talent, research and development, and collaboration.

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