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From Ivory Tower to Lighthouse: Exploration of School-Enterprise Cooperation Models for Talent Development

By Li Jisheng, Director of Brand Communication, Huawei Talent Ecosystem Development Dept

Talent development is key to achieving the long-term development of a country. Talent development must be forward-looking. History provides us with an abundance of examples of how the emergence of outstanding talent can greatly contribute to the development of a nation and a people. The information communications technology (ICT) industry, which features technologies such as cloud computing, big data, Internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI), has become a strategic industry for national economic and social development. The shortage of ICT talent has become a bottleneck that is hindering industrial development. It even affects the sustainable development of the overall economy.

A Huge ICT Talent Gap that Calls for School-Enterprise Cooperation

In 2017, there was a total demand gap of over 7.65 million ICT graduates. As this gap widens, challenges in talent recruitment, structures, and business capabilities are increasing. Moreover, ICT talent development suffers from problems such as a mismatch between the location where talent is produced and it is needed, and misalignment between the current and ideal talent pool and levels. These misalignments plague the entire ICT industry. As for ICT talent development in China, the problem lies in the fact that many graduates cannot meet employers' requirements. An innovative model of school-enterprise cooperation and industry-education integration is a potential solution. In this model, higher education institutions share resources with enterprises and set development targets based on the demand for certain skills. The ICT industry is expected to see an increase in innovation and entrepreneurship. Higher education institutions and students can focus on productive skill development. Overall, this model contributes to a healthy ICT talent ecosystem, which in turn fuels steady industry development.

Bottlenecks in School-Enterprise Cooperation and Industry-Education Integration

The development of school-enterprise cooperation is motivated by the development requirements of higher education institutions and enterprises, and accelerated by favorable governmental policies. However, it has entered a more difficult phase in which crucial problems remain.

The model remains inchoate, the cooperation between schools and enterprises is not well-established, and lacks systemic organization. Some enterprises are reluctant to cooperate with schools, because they often emphasize theory over practical skills. This leads to a mismatch between courses taught in schools and professional qualifications required by employers. In addition, lack of enthusiasm on the part of professors and students often hinders cooperation projects.

Mutually Beneficial Collaboration for New Talent Development

As a leading global ICT infrastructure provider, Huawei fosters an open, shared, and mutually beneficial ICT talent ecosystem. In 2013, Huawei ICT Academy, a school-enterprise cooperation project, was launched to help build Huawei's talent ecosystem.

In January 2017, the Student Innovation Center of Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) signed an agreement with Huawei to set up an ICT Academy. Based on its insights and in-depth experience in industry-education integration, Huawei worked with SJTU to develop a new school-enterprise cooperation model that introduces practical training into courses. The cooperation model focuses on specific research, and includes a project assessment system. In this new model, professors are trained by both Huawei and SJTU, and the results are demonstrated in competitions.

Co-creation of Practical Technical Courses to Remedy the Skill Misalignment in Higher Education

In recent years, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, characterized by cloud computing, big data, IoT, and AI, has brought huge challenges to the higher education industry. Schools urgently need to modernize the curriculum of traditional engineering majors. In addition, most emerging technologies are directly applied in industry, and schools therefore lack case studies that can be used for teaching. Even China's top universities suffer this problem.

Huawei Academy is working with the Student Innovation Center of SJTU to develop IoT talent. The course curriculum is designed by Huawei experts and professors based on the Huawei Certified ICT Associate (HCIA)-IoT certification. Students will develop their knowledge by studying real projects and the effectiveness of their learning will be tested with experiments, thereby demonstrating their knowledge. The entire course focuses on practical cases and projects to counteract the weaknesses of higher education in this area.

Training Professors to Improve Teaching Quality

Huawei arranges training for SJTU professors. The Trainers will participate in teaching and instructing students throughout the course, and SJTU professors who hold Huawei certifications will be assigned to help other professors in learning and experiments. The training will ensure that SJTU professors understand Huawei's new IoT technologies and related practical skills, and improve the team's overall quality. In March 2018, the SJTU School of Electronic Information and Electrical Engineering (SEIEE) introduced Huawei's practical IoT training into its course "System Design Methods, Tools and Practice" for the information engineering major. Thirty students selected this 2-credit course requiring 32 training hours. The students' score on the HCIA-IoT Certification exam was worth 30% of their final grade. All of the students attended and passed the certification exam.

Encouraging Students to be Innovative, Entrepreneurial, and Competitive

At the end of the course, Huawei used a "program + presentation" system to assess students' learning effectiveness. The students were required to use the technologies they learned about and to work in teams to complete a project that involved solving a specific problem in one or two weeks. In December 2017, the first batch of students passed the assessment and created some 20 innovative projects. In June 2018, students who selected Huawei's IoT innovation course improved their course projects, and participated in the 2018 TIIC-National Undergraduate IoT Design Contest. Two teams of six students each won the Grand Prize of the Eastern China Region. In September, the two teams both won the National First Prize, and five team members received recommendations for postgraduate programs because of the award. The course enables students to compete and gives them an opportunity to further advance their studies. This process enhances the course value and students' capabilities in innovation and entrepreneurship.

The school-enterprise cooperation between SJTU and Huawei is a beneficial exploration to help higher education institutions improve their curriculum and education model. Not only is the school-enterprise cooperation model recognized by SJTU, it is also recognized by other universities. This case has been widely discussed through various channels, and the methods are now being adopted by elite Chinese universities such as Tianjin University, Harbin Institute of Technology, Southeast University, Wuhan University, Yunnan University, and Beijing University of Technology. The success has boosted the nationwide innovative upgrading of the talent development models in higher education institutions.

In the new era of ICT development, Huawei will not only accelerate scientific and technological innovation, but also invest more in knowledge innovation and talent development. Huawei hopes that furthering school-enterprise cooperation will better align school curricula and industry segments, course content, and professional qualifications. This will lead to improved teaching structures, production processes, talent development, and employment. By bridging the gap between enterprise demand and talent supply, Huawei provides more technical and capable talent, more advanced technologies, and more support for talent innovation and entrepreneurship. This facilitates a virtuous cycle and sustainable development of the ICT industry.

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Enterprise Service Special Issue 01

Enterprise Service Special Issue 01(06/2019)

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