College Recruiting: A Role in Addressing the Industry/Academic Gap

In recent weeks, I’ve been exploring business opportunities addressing the “cultural gap” between industry and academia. The interest was sparked a few months back when a friend, who works for Jet Propulsion Laboratories (JPL), told me of a frustrating experience he experienced working in partnership with a certain university. Two teams (one JPL and one university) worked to develop software for a satellite project. When the teams met to discuss their ideas, he said they spent more time bickering over their respective approaches rather than their solutions.     

As businesses are growing and the world is moving toward a concept of global village, the competition among the organizations and industries is rapidly increasing. In such an environment of high interaction, the existence of any business/economy is dependent upon not only the optimal utilization of current available resources, but also on innovation and communication. However, there is often a gap between what college students learn in theory and what is actually practiced in industry.

Practice can be defined as the action of doing something; performance, execution. Theory can be defined as a scheme or system of ideas or statements held as an explanation or account of a group of facts or phenomena. I would argue that the key relationship (or lack thereof) between theory and practice is the gap that exists between them. There is a general disconnect, for example, between theoretical (academic) frameworks and business realities.    

At times, practitioners take least abstract approaches and dismiss theory as irrelevant or infeasible. When faced with a new situation, a practitioner relies on knowledge and experience. Theorists observe in order to understand the world with the goal of building an understanding of observed phenomena over time. These different approaches often create a strained relationship. It is easy, for example, to teach a subject like marketing theory, but its nature makes it challenging to apply, especially in a field that is very unpredictable. On the other hand, it is more challenging to teach an individual a practice (or vocation); it can be learned only through experience.  

There is an opportunity here. Those involved in college recruitment can help address this tension by facilitating the relationship and by providing a basic framework for understanding why difficulties occur when trying to collaborate between different value sets as in industry and academia. Both industry and higher education involve knowledge creation, dissemination and learning. Those of us involved in college recruitment can serve as a bridge to help industry and academia become collegially networked institutions.