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An effort to bridge university-industry gap among Human Resource Management (HRM) (under)graduates: students’ perception



University-industry collaborations are encouraged globally. Despite industry-based continuous assessments, industry-focused subjects, and industrial training element of the Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) Degree, the theory-practice knowledge gap is severely experienced by management graduates who in turn encounter issues in employability and adaptability to organisational requirements. It further affects the recognition for the degree in the industry. In order to overcome this dilemma, a programme called ‘I-achieve’, was implemented in 2019 by HRM Department, Faculty of Management and Finance (FMF), University of Colombo for undergraduates specialising in HR. The aim of ‘I-achieve’ was to expose undergraduates to real-world HR practices coupled with academic work to enable them to enter the labour force by knowing what the HR profession entails. ‘I-achieve’ was conducted throughout Semester VII (15 weeks) via four components. 1)I-pops – Visits to four different manufacturing and service settings, 2) Interactive sessions – Six sessions on practical aspects of subject areas, personality and attitude development, 3) Everyday English - English language sessions four days a week (2 hours each) to develop English language skills, and 4) Mentoring and shadowing – Five sessions where students were assigned to an organisational Head of HR – who mentored and allowed students to shadow him/her to observe how organisations implemented HR real-time. To evaluate success, we used written feedback from 18 students and oral feedback from all 27 participants, industry collaborators and reflections from programme coordinators. The analysis revealed that students perceived that ‘I-achieve’ helped to bridge HR practices-theory gap which enabled them to perform well at internships in Semester VIII. Student feedback further indicated that they obtained a realistic understanding of the HR profession, adapted more quickly to work and behaviour in organisations, and their use of the English language at work improved. Approximately 80% of the participants of ‘I-achieve’ were offered permanent employment by organisations where they completed their internships. Approximately 85% of these participants attributed this opportunity to the personal development provided by ‘I-achieve’. Industry collaborators and coordinators indicated a considerable improvement in students’ adaptability and knowledge on industry practices succeeding ‘I-achieve’.
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