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University-Industry Engagement Advisor

Entrepreneurship programs increasing their focus on job placement

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: September 5th, 2018

While university entrepreneurship programs and the creation of start-ups would seem to go hand in hand, some recent research indicates universities may be making a more valuable contribution to the ecosystem through job creation than through generating start-ups. It also appears, based on where their programs are focusing, that some universities are beginning to zero in on preparing graduates as future employees in start-up companies rather than founders.

Recent research seems to be supporting that shift. For example, authors Haifeng Qian and Xin Yao, in their recent article “The Role of Research Universities in U.S. College-Town Entrepreneurial Ecosystems,” say they could find no evidence that entrepreneurship programs improved start-up rates significantly. They recommend instead that universities work on strengthening the ecosystem through the development of talented employees.

In “Revisiting the Roles of the University in Regional Economic Development: A Triangulation of Data,” authors Yas Motoyama and Heike Mayer note that the main interaction between major firms and academic institutions occurs through the hiring of graduates.

And Julian Wyllie, in a recent Chronicle of Higher Education, cited research from Ohio State professor Matthew Mayhew and his partner Benjamin Selznick in pointing out that innovation centers which ignored the needs of students who do not want to be business owners — at least not immediately after graduation — missed the opportunity of connecting with local businesses.

Several universities are getting the message. “One of the programs my office runs is an internship program primarily for undergraduates,” says Zach Shulman, director of entrepreneurship at Cornell University, adding that there is a separate program outside his office for grad students only.

“For the 80/20 Foundation and San Antonio, one of the missing components in the ecosystem is how to get this generation of Millenials to be part of the new economy,” says Luis Martinez, PhD, director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Trinity University. That is one of the goals, he explains, of Students+Startups, a joint effort of the 80/20 Foundation and the co-working space Geekdom that arranges for paid internships with local start-ups, sharing with them the cost of the internships. The Foundation is focused on building the San Antonio tech ecosystem through grants to high-impact nonprofits.

At the University of Colorado Boulder, HackCU “flips the traditional career fair on its head” with networking events — branded as Startups2Students (S2S) — designed to make connections for internships and full-time jobs by having start-ups “pitch” themselves to about 150 students.

“We can encourage students to work at a start-up and improve the relationship between start-ups and CU, then in turn spread the word about ourselves,” says Will Dickinson, co-director of finance for HackCU.

A detailed article on the shifting focus of entrepreneurship programs appears in the August issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe and get the full article, along with hundreds of best practices and TTO success strategies in the publication’s subscriber-only online archive, CLICK HERE.

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