Students often work on industry- and community-driven projects while balancing other academic demands. While students graduate with a strong appreciation of what is needed to solve problems effectively, their skills could benefit from fine-tuning and mentorship. At the same time, new graduates enter the work place where companies have embraced "lean" ideals and expect that these graduates will have an immediate impact with minimal or no training. In some cases, this results in a gap between employer expectations and employee abilities. The question then is how do we address this gap?
Our solution is a “Springboard Mentorship.”
This idea is based on funding and a mechanism that allows recent graduates to be engaged in solving industry or community problems while still having the ability to learn from an experienced professor over a short period of time – say six months to a year.
Further, these graduates could mentor junior students who are working their way through their programs by providing insight and guidance. This idea harnesses the passion and enthusiasm of college graduates to propel innovation.
Funding for such a partnership could stem from a joint effort between industry, government agencies (such as the tri-councils) and colleges. Enthusiastic graduates could put their skills into action right away, without having to worry about course work, thus generating an immediate influx of new ideas, new designs and new ventures into the marketplace.
These graduates would benefit from the expertise and guidance of college faculty mentors who could help polish their mentees’ applied research skills. In exchange, graduates could reduce faculty workload by assisting students involved in faculty-run projects or externally driven work. By acting as mentors to junior students, graduates develop leadership and communication skills – the much needed and so-called “soft skills” while improving their practical knowledge and abilities.
The benefits of a Springboard Mentorship are multi-layered. Graduates would be more employable and better equipped to take the next step in their career, easing the transition into the workforce. It would reduce the employers risk of hiring new graduates, as they would see a solid body of real-world work experience, rather than hoping that there's talent behind the credential. Picture the innovation payoff of thousands of experienced and engaged college graduates, and the domino effect of their new ideas, designs and approaches alongside their boiling-over desire to join the workforce. Now picture what is lost if that same number are unable to find employment and experience, instead succumbing to an inevitable erosion of skills. There is so much attention being placed on creating something new — new funding for research, new incubators and new initiatives — yet no attention is being paid to developing the skills of the next generation of innovators. We encourage the innovation strategy to consider this option.