Opportunities can only happen between higher education and private industry when the two parties are represented at the table. Realizing this has led to the creation of several councils to open lines of communication between business and academia.
The Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey is launching a higher education council to be able to match the group's higher ed membership with opportunities other industry members may have.
The first focus of the group, according to President John Galandak, is to create a structured internship program to help students gain the real-world skills they need to compete in New Jersey's work force.
"When pharma has to decide, 'Do I expand or initiate my operation in New Jersey, or do I pick another state?,' sometimes New Jersey wins — but sometimes we don't," Galandak said. "Some of the reasons that have been cited have been the relationship that some of the pharma companies enjoy with higher ed."
Galandak said the council also is expected to expand discussions on how the state's schools can enhance their curriculums to better meet the talent needs of the state.
In addition to the CIANJ education council, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno announced in March the creation of a new Council on Innovation to better connect the work being done in the state's schools with industry.
That kind of engagement has "often been sporadic," said Rochelle Hendricks, state secretary of higher education. "It lacks a sustained, systemic approach that sometimes put the state and our institutions likely behind the eight ball."
Hendricks said she hopes the council will be able to take the significant investments being made at the state level, specifically the restructuring legislation and the $750 million higher education bond that passed in the fall, and leverage it to better the entire state.
"All of us were beginning to move in the same direction, identifying the same needs," Hendricks said. "Putting together this council with the diverse membership it represents will allow New Jersey now to really focus on what do we need to do and how do we go about doing it to be competitive with states that have had something like this in place."
Hendricks said one of the first projects of the Council of Innovation is to develop communication strategies to not only enhance the way academia and industry work with each other, but how to get those partnerships broadcast to the general population.
She also said another goal is to ensure the dialogue between the two sectors of the state's economy will be ongoing instead of the start-stop pattern that is the current norm.
"We have to make sure it's a multifaceted discourse," Hendricks said. "One of the things that happens is everyone wants to talk at the other one, so we want to make sure there really is a mutuality of exchange, and each time we walk away with agreements and understandings."
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