December 1, 2013

Universities Must Focus on Real-World Skills

New Orleans, Louisiana business leaders discuss business-university economic development

Grambling State University Media Bureau

New Orleans, La. – Sadly, Rodrick Miller said, not enough universities prepare students for the “real world.”

Wanting to focus on developing and improving the minority workforce, the president and CEO of New Orleans Business Alliance said universities must develop programs and create opportunities for students to create small businesses with more real world skills such as developing ground-up business plans and using business incubator approaches to launch new businesses.

“They need to understand the nature of global competitiveness,” said Miller, a Development Counsellors International “40 under 40” award recipient.

During a Wednesday morning session with successful business owners and university officials, Miller and others talked about the economic development role of universities in the Rivergate Room at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center as a part of the first Bayou Classic University-Business Summit. Panelists discussed how to bridge business-university gaps and ways to benefit HBCU students.

Agreeing with Miller, Sandra Woodley said universities have to take the responsibility to prepare students for their future and guide them to a financially stable path.

“We have a responsibility to help students much earlier, even in high school,” said Woodley, president of the University of Louisiana System, which includes Grambling State University. “We need to have students understand their choices, but I think what we have to be able to do is to nudge our students to know the transparent ways to understand.”

Woodley said universities must merge academics with employer needs. She said the state will learn more about a new ULS partnership with a high-tech online platform called MyEdu, a site much like a cross between the professional-focused LinkedIn and the social-focused Facebook.

Murphy Cheatham, a 2001 Grambling State University graduate who is the director of the central United States region of the National Development Council, said more universities must push their students beyond classroom theories. “I don’t know if you can teach someone what happens in the real word from theories,” said Cheatham, who works with NDC, the oldest national nonprofit organization in the nation.

Timothy McLachlan, vice president at IBM Global Service Center, said his company is ramping up a big operation in the Baton Rouge area and they are hiring at least 200 people a year, even new graduates with limited experience. He told the audience IBM needs help.
“The biggest challenge is getting more female diversity in STEM programs,” said McLachlan. “Help me to recruit graduates with skills.”

Grambling State University Provost Connie Walton plans to take the summit information back to campus to help GSU students move in the right direction.  She said she will use what she learned to get students involved with more business entrepreneur opportunities while developing innovative projects. She said GSU was awarded $487,500 from the U.S. Small Business Administration for an economic development program called Expanding Minority Entrepreneurship Regionally Across the Louisiana Delta (EMERALD) to focus in areas with heavy poverty.

“All of our students will benefit from training in entrepreneurships, regardless of their major,” said Walton.

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Media Contact:
Will Sutton



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