Nurturing the workforce of the future

  • By Inge Abraham

Narrowing the gap for IT students and cultivating a well-equipped future workforce

As much as schools and universities are well-equipped to educate IT students, they’re not always able to fully prepare learners for the current realities of the business world. What kind of technological innovations are companies requiring in this day and age, and how do IT enterprises meet those needs? To answer such questions and better prepare students for the future, universities tend to require additional support.

The challenge: how to narrow the gap between education and real-life practice

IT students often leave university, diploma in hand, with a great deal of knowledge gleaned from a heap of textbooks, but they typically lack on-the-ground experience and an understanding of the key IT challenges facing today’s businesses. It’s a gap that needs urgent narrowing, and a desire to address this issue is what drove universities of applied sciences and Accenture to join forces. 

As Tjerk van Westing, a teacher of business and ICT at Windesheim University of Applied Sciences, puts it, “Regardless of how skilled our staff are, we still cannot equip students with all the nuanced competencies and knowledge that today’s market requires. Acknowledging this, we realized we could do one of two things: ask teachers to read a dozen new textbooks, which would unfortunately still keep the focus very theoretical, or call in a company like Accenture, whose consultants can provide students with real-time, real-life insights. We chose to do the latter.”

Marcio Fuckner, lecturer and researcher at Hogeschool van Amsterdam (HvA), was extremely excited when his school and Accenture teamed up to arrange a semester-long blockchain course. “While we originally planned to keep the teaching in-house, we soon realized how much we could add value to our blockchain minor if we brought in companies with proven experience in the field and had their professionals share their knowledge. Not only do our students benefit greatly from the insight shared by professionals from the industry, but the process also does wonders for their network and unlocks opportunities for possible internships, or even jobs.”  

The solution: bring experienced consultants from the field into the classroom

The key focus of the class is business intelligence and we aim to give students tangible tools and skills so they can address a business’s IT problem with practical solutions. The course comprises a series of six two-hour lectures and a final practical case, each presented by one of our expert consultants. Lectures cover topics like requirement gathering, data modeling, ETL and data visualisation.

"We looked at the specific problems our clients in the field are facing today, and considered the kind of solutions we can offer them, and how we implement such solutions."
Vincent Buuts, Project Manager at Accenture

Evguenia Shprits is one of the experienced Accenture consultants, and a blockchain business analyst with a PhD in economics that lectures at HvA. She was very excited to find out about the partnership between Accenture and the university, in part because she already had 15 years’ experience teaching at the University of Mannheim in Germany. Her course focuses specifically on blockchain economic foundations and business applications’. “I have been amazed by their curiosity and eagerness to learn. Most of them are familiar with Bitcoin and the other “usual suspects” in the cryptocurrency field, but they’re less aware of the many other applications of enterprise blockchain out there. Through my real-life examples, combined with visits to other companies, the theory really comes to life. That’s what I love most about this course: it applies the theory in very practical contexts. The experience is not only extremely exciting, interesting and valuable for students, but also very rewarding for us teachers! I love that Accenture not only offers its employees the chance to engage in such “activities”, but also actively encourages us to do so.” 

The results: better equipped students and potential new hires

Tjerk from Windesheim feels very positively about the outcomes of the partnership. “We are convinced that these lectures are part of the answer to the million-dollar questions around how to prepare a well-equipped future workforce and how to close the gap between education and the labor market – two objectives that obviously go hand in hand. We are finding that students are becoming increasingly aware of what business intelligence entails, what new technologies are out there, and, even more importantly, how they apply to practical modern-day business cases. They are starting to use the software tools and solutions introduced to them by Accenture consultants in other contexts too.” 

Tjerk continues: “The partnership enables us, as an educational institution, to draw on expertise and knowledge that we could simply never access from textbooks alone, and this adds incredible value to our course material. Combination with other practical experiences, like internships and real-world assignments – this approach really helps us to take big steps towards cultivating the workforce of the future.” 

Marcio from HvA wholeheartedly agrees, and points out that all parties benefit from the arrangement. “The ROI of the partnership is definitely multifaceted – it’s a classic win-win situation. Accenture helps us to share knowledge from the field on a whole new level, while we at HvA give Accenture and the students the opportunity to get to know each other!"

 

Do you work for an educational institution that could be eager to benefit from this same win-win situation by participating in this program? Contact stijn.verslype@accenture.com.

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