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At one worldclass multinational where someone i once worked, there were botany and geology graduates who did software project management work, and there were computer science graduates who were doing human resource work.|
How they came about to be good at doing things they were not trained in the university was due to three things:
one, they were personally driven to excel, having been recruited based on their academic records and other personal qualities - which had to be in the top rung; this created expectations, measures and peer-pressure;
two, they were rigorously run through superb internal courses which required them to fully comprehend what they were expected to do, teach and solve once they were out in the field, and
three, they were constantly supported throughout their careers wherever they be posted by an internal knowledge management system which contained all the lessons, project details, contacts, templates, work-tools, knowledge etc. on similar projects.
On top of that they could ask specific questions to other staff throughout the world who were experts on any subject and expect to get an answer within 24 hours if not immediately for the same timezones;
lastly, they had support from knowledge researchers who would search all the best commercial databases in the world for answers, news, views, reports and data that could be used for the project or for marketing, training, analysis and understanding of the subject to be applied to any number of industries in any country.
In short, the company's entire knowledge capital was captured, channeled, redeveloped and reused.
University education should have something like this. The knowledge of an expert on a particular field for instance in one university should be captured/capturable across the entire country and made available with suitable screening of the requesters/request from anywhere else in the country. The knowledge delivery can be electronic, audio-visual or in print. Some other post i had even suggested the expert takes a train ride and in one carriage of the train for the length of the journey, he conducts his lecture so that students can get onto the train from wherever it stops to learn specific modules - instead of scores converging at great cost to one place, the total cost is reduced for each.
There are many other ways to innovate university education to be more relevant and topical. Granted the basic knowledge of a subject must be mastered first before one can learn new things that are directly applicable in job markets, for how else can the student gain mastery when the market requirements change later if he does not know the basics first in order to improvise his understanding then? Another thing, basic things taught systematically in the university in an orderly academic setting is anytime easier to learn than boring practical stuff that markets often require of the staff.
So there should be some compromise - more than just the vacational/vocational/industrial/holiday training that the student gets attached to a company or a factory, there should be some formal coursework on the way the work markets operate - what they look for in the quality and knowledge of graduates, how the working conditions are like, what a day in the life of the salaried person will be, and more importantly, what are the specific knowledge requirements in a specific post in a particular industry. Lastly, where and how to find these things, capped by techniques on how to think out for yourself on how to research where to find the right supporting information. These requirements can be fulfilled by getting the alma mater and business/industry operators to give campus talks, or from watching teleinterviews, or from group discussions on specific articles. Or, even from interactions in forums such as this.
But do it systematically, accurately, determinedly and completely.