Other than the occasional endorsement of the call to lower/scrap tertiary tuition fees, business has been largely silent on the financial plight of students which has lately been cast in the spotlight.

Business can ill-afford to overlook its role in making contributions towards those seeking further education. Given that there is constant demand for better-educated, highly skilled and often experienced labour, a business organisation should consider how to promote the continued availability of such individuals.

While it may be grinding to allocate company resources to a cause that seemingly offers no direct benefit, there are other aspects to consider: company image, community reputation, hiring preference and growth of sector confidence, to name a few. With these loosely in mind, consider the various possibilities of how to offer student assistance.

Direct sponsorship

There are a number of ways to sponsor students and their studies. Companies could, for example, offer to pay for part or all of a student’s tuition fees or learning materials. They could also provide stipends for accommodation and transport, making courses more accessible. Alternatively, there is always the option to fund an educational program via those who offer it, thus making it feasible to have a larger student intake or perhaps lower the fees for all attending students. Bursaries are also still fairly common, though when arising from a private company they may include a clause stipulating paying the amount back or working for the company post-graduation.

Community outreach

Community development programs are relatively easy to structure towards tertiary education. One idea is to arrange for an area’s student transport to and from university via a shared ride paradigm. Another option is to have a dedicated time of year to assist students with course applications or exam preparation. Finally, companies could help alleviate the stress of studies by taking part in social or sporting events with local students.

Institution outreach

Universities and colleges are not immune to needing private sector assistance, and companies have various ways to lend aid. For starters, they could invite lecturers and course developers to discuss changes and skill requirements in their particular field. Industry expertise should be used to bridge any gaps between theoretical instruction and hands-on real-world application. Furthermore, courses need to adjust accordingly to take into account progress that may have come about in a given field, and academia isn’t always on the forefront on this.

Additionally, educational institutions can assist students in benefiting from industry knowledge. This can be accomplished by private sector individuals offering to engage directly with students, provide insight into what the professional arena is like, and offer valuable advice regarding skills, career choices and opportunities.

Internships and apprenticeships

When deciding which sector to enter and gaining work experience, both internships and apprenticeships offer invaluable opportunity.

Internships allow students or potential students to learn the ins and outs of the employment type they may wish to pursue through further study. If the individuals are already skilled or partly skilled, they also offer tangible benefit to the company they’re interning at – interns can be attached to a results-based project and tasked with particular contributions or achievements.

Apprenticeships greatly enhance the learning process by focusing or developing particular work-related abilities. These are relatively straightforward to offer if done in conjunction with an educational institution, and offer students added incentive to perform as they can be made to count as course credit. The key element is to mutually design the apprenticeship to ensure students receive the most relevant value.

Knowledge dissemination

While uncommon, it is not unheard of for professionals in the business sector to directly offer knowledge transfer through teaching and lecturing. This is a large time investment, and needs to be approached with caution due to the time commitments. A successful skills transfer program needs continuity above all else, and those concerned should fully address all concerns prior to commencement. Once in place, the topics covered can easily be adjusted to stay abreast of the latest industry developments, thus giving students maximum exposure. Finally, companies who partake in such programs are also in a unique position to directly address educational requirements related to knowledge and skills, allowing for better-equipped candidates to enter the workplace in future.