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Anticipate future skills needs with Higher Education / Industry partnerships

| 3 Min Read

History is filled with examples of what can happen if an organisation fails to adapt to the changing world surrounding them. We have all seen examples of companies which once dominated their industries - such as Kodak or Nokia - being left behind not because of their own failures, but because their industry evolved and competitors were more swift to adapt. As Nokia’s then CEO Stephen Elop said after the company’s acquisition by Microsoft, “We did nothing wrong, but we still lost”.

This is as true for higher education as it is for any other organisation; students depend upon education providers to equip them with the skills and knowledge they will need to keep up with the rapidly evolving needs of industry and society. In this article, we look at how education organisations can forge partnerships with industry that will let you predict and plan for future workforce skills needs, and help minimise the potential that you experience your own ‘Kodak moment’.


Partnering with Industry Stakeholders

A great first step towards effective collaboration is to identify and build relationships with the key organisations and stakeholders within the industry your learning, and graduates, will support. Higher education organisations have an advantage here in that you will often have several existing relationships that you can leverage in order to gain industry insights. If possible, however, try to look beyond the organisations with which you already have a relationship to identify new or emerging organisations within the sector that can offer insights and form mutually beneficial partnerships.

The essential element here is creating a robust, honest and mutually supportive network. Through open dialogue, higher education institutions can gain insights into the unique challenges faced by the sector, helping to tailor learning programs to address specific industry needs, even if those needs are emergent or forward thinking.

Determine Industry Development Priorities

Once relationships are established, the next step is to work closely with industry partners to identify their development priorities. This involves understanding their goals for growth and development in the near to moderate term future, analysing the current composition of the industry's workforce and skill base, and projecting future skills requirements.

With the information gathered on these elements, it is possible to develop a clear picture of both where the sector is now, and where it aims to be over the coming years, allowing you to identify where existing and potential skill gaps within the industry lie. This information then underpins the development of strategies and learning programs that can close these gaps and enable the workforce to remain agile and well-equipped to meet the evolving demands of the industry.

Build a Strategy

Armed with insights from industry partners, higher education institutions can build a strategic framework for future learning development, and commence identifying and developing the learning required to close or minimise skill gaps. The information gathered should provide you with enough information to prioritise learning development around skills that are anticipated to be in high demand, in the nearer term or those that deliver the highest impact. Not only does this allow for efficient prioritisation and resource allocation throughout the learning development process, but helps to ensure that you are developing courses that will be relevant to industry and which stand to attract the largest possible audience of learners.

Maintaining constant communication with industry stakeholders throughout the planning and development process is crucial. This ongoing collaboration ensures that learning programs remain aligned should the needs of the industry shift over time, builds excitement for your forward-thinking new products and provides valuable feedback that can support successful course development. Maintaining flexibility and adaptability throughout this process allows higher education institutions to respond swiftly to emerging trends and maintain very tight alignment with industry and the wider workforce.


Deploy, Monitor, and Optimize Content

Of course, deploying learning products is not the end of the journey, but rather the beginning of a continuous cycle of improvement. Remaining in contact with industry partners to solicit feedback on your learning’s real-world performance gives you access to a wealth of information to help ensure that your learning is performing as intended, both throughout the learner’s engagement with the course and as the results of that course are carried forwards into the workplace. With feedback from your partners, you can quickly assess, adapt and optimise your learning programs to ensure that you are consistently delivering education that is relevant, effective, and aligned with the real-world needs of the industry. 

Extending this element, your partners can help confirm that the learning you create is contributing to the transfer of skills and knowledge directly into practice. This can be done both through gathering feedback from your industry partners on the impact of your learning on worker performance, and by offering support and advice to help employers optimise learning transfer in the workplace.


Collaboration between higher education institutions and industry stakeholders is pivotal for preparing a future-ready workforce. With strong partnerships, a clear view of industry priorities, and insight into the needs and capabilities of the workforce, higher education institutions can play a proactive role in addressing skill gaps and ensuring that graduates are equipped with the skills needed to thrive in the evolving job market. Embracing this collaborative approach is not just beneficial for individual learners and industries; it is an essential and productive investment into the economic resilience and adaptability of the workforce and of the wider society of which it is a part.