The relationship between business education and the business community isn’t a one-way street. This symbiotic relationship has give and take. On one hand, businesses are looking to recruit the talent that will put them on top and on the other hand, educational institutions want to be the number one producer of that top talent. Together, they can accomplish that – and more.
This is what Vikas Mehrotra, the recently appointed dean of the Alberta School of Business at the University of Alberta, shared with me about his vision for the school and its industry ties.
“What we’re looking for here is a two-way street,” he explained. “Businesses are looking at us for the one real product we have: our students. So, we want to train, scale and equip them to become the experts that businesses can’t live without.”
How do we get there?
We’re already well on our way thanks to the Business Advisory Council (BAC). Set up by the previous Alberta School of Business administration, this group of regional business folks have excellent networks, years of experience and are recognized for their achievements and business acumen.
Rather than functioning as a sounding board, the BAC is a forum. Members work hand-in-hand with business school folks in small groups, each tackling a defined function with tangible outcomes. One of the BAC subcommittees is responsible for the creation of YEG Industry Insights, a program that facilitates no-cost field trips for business students to visit organizations in their industry of interest in the Edmonton region.
Industry also informs the Alberta School of Business about what businesses are looking for in graduates, like strengthened understanding of business analytics and data visualization, for which Vikas intends to create new programs. A major in business analytics at the undergraduate level is underway, and master’s programs in business analytics are under consideration.
Business analytics, he assured me, is not a modern buzzword. If anything, it’s an ancient one. Humans have been doing data analytics for 5,000 years. Vikas wants to ensure that all business courses are informed by data analytics — using the latest tools, which themselves are evolving at a frenetic pace, to understand and make sense of the information deluge — so every graduate is prepared to apply them when they enter the business world. Plus, he says creating new programs to accomplish this will help businesses hire and recruit locally, which saves them time, energy and money while retaining talent in our region.
On top of strengthening industry ties and creating new programs, Vikas also sees internationalization, reputation and talent retention as priorities that will benefit both the school and the community. Through external partnerships, he wants to work to expand the scope of immersive student experiences offered and take a leading role in addressing environmental, social and governance issues.
When I asked Vikas what he would tell the business community if he could only share one message, his answer was simple.
“Get more involved with us. External partnerships are the means through which the school will develop and inspire entrepreneurial leaders from Alberta for the world and grow and strengthen our region’s economy in the process. We want our relationship to be mutually beneficial — a two-way street on which we both thrive.”