What role do corporates have in education?

25th September, 2017

What role does the corporate sector have in delivering the skills needed for tomorrow’s workforce?

With the nature of work shifting so rapidly, the ability of the formal school curriculum to stay on the bleeding edge is being put under strain – so institutions are increasingly seeking the real-world perspective of corporate partners to deliver students relevant insights.

A corporate partner can help deliver a learning experience which is both relevant to the curriculum and to the real world as a supplement to the core education students receive in school.

After all, the pace the private sector is changing at is always going to be faster than the pace at which a public curriculum can shift.

“The education system is such a very big beast and to think you can change it overnight is unrealistic.” founder of i-Manifest, Jo Pretyman, told The Pulse.

I-Manifest has been set up as an educational program aimed at developing core skills such as creativity, collaboration and critical thinking – with an eye towards developing the next generation of creative people.

“In schools, kids are still being dissuaded from pursuing a creative path because ‘they’ll never get a job’, but that isn’t the reality,” said Pretyman.

Across a spectrum of industries, the role of what were considered ‘creative’ skills are now being accentuated.

Process and rules-based work is being automated one algorithm at a time, so the role of programs such as i-Manifest in delivering the skills needed for students to take their place in the new economy is increasing.

Kids are also being empowered to become entrepreneurs, to take control of their own destiny – and that comes with its own set of skills.

Pretyman told The Pulse that the involvement corporate partners, such as MYOB, was vital in delivering students a real-world perspective.

“The great thing about working with industry partners is that they help keep the content current and relevant,” said Pretyman.

For example, while blockchain may not have made it to the classroom just yet – it’s a hot topic in the corporate sector.

It’s why programs such as i-Manifest can act as a supplement to the existing education experience.

She also said the involvement of the private sector in the educational experience gave students a glimpse of a life they would not normally get outside of their day to day environment.

“The mentors who come in… may come from a big glossy brand or have a big job title, but when the kids actually meet them they figure out that ‘hey, these are just people’,” said Pretyman.

“They’re all human beings who have had interesting journeys, and not one of them has had an easy path. It really breaks down the disconnect and help the students realise that hey, they can do that too.”

When corporate involvement crosses a line

MYOB is just one of 40 companies involved in the i-Manifest program, each of which bring students different perspectives from their particular industries and offer students different value.

The fear with corporate involvement in student programs is that it’s used as a platform to advertise directly to vulnerable people.

What may start out as a good-intentioned initiative to help students may end up being eroded by the company’s logo being front and centre.

Imagine something like “Maths: brought to you by McDonalds”.

In a world where increased collaboration between the private, government, and social sectors is blurring traditional silos – how do you make sure the integrity of an educational experience is maintained?

Over the last 12 months MYOB has been engaging with private education providers such as i-Manifest and Lemonade Stand to help deliver students the skills they need.

READ: Preparing for the future with Lemonade Stand

MYOB sponsorship manager Jo Carroll told The Pulse that it was important to keep the focus on providing value for students rather than it becoming a marketing exercise.

“The approach we take is to emphasise the value we can give students, and we feel we can do that with a suite of partners rather than being front and centre,” she said.

“At the end of the day, the students are the most important part of the exercise – and we think brands and corporations should supplement learning rather than forcing their way into classrooms”

“These skills are best learnt at a place like i-Manifest.”

Pretyman backed that perspective, saying that brands who wanted to provide educational content should be focused on working collaboratively with others rather than making sure their logo is seen by students.

“I think if it was just one corporation presenting a whole curriculum you’d worry that there’s something to that,” she said.

“It’s about working together and solving things in different ways, it’s a great opportunity for brands to collaborate with each other but also with schools and government to help shape an education system that will truly serve our next generation.”