The “skill gap” is not a unique phenomenon to our age, but it is a concern that we’re hearing about often these days, especially for new graduates. Their lack of real-world experience inhibits them from rising to the top of the stack of resumes. Internships and summer job programs play an increasingly important role in necessary achievements before donning a cap and gown, and partnerships with organizations like the Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC) are crucial to bridging the gap between the university and the business community, and in connecting students with crucial real-world experience.
The SBTDC is an invaluable business advisory resource for growing and developing businesses, and its services are offered at largely no cost to its clients. It has offices hosted by all of the campuses of the University of North Carolina system and it partners with and is partially funded by the Small Business Administration. With one foot in the academy and one foot in the community, it is in a wholly unique position to pair students with businesses. This partnership benefits the students with much needed hands-on experience and helps businesses by giving them fresh eyes and hands.
There are programs like this across the country, but the Learning Alliance Program is unique in the length of the program, the variety of skills acquired, and the depth to which the students delve. This program is a 13-month commitment by teams of four to five students in the Professional MBA program at the Cameron School of Business at UNCW. These students work in local small and midsize businesses, which are identified by the SBTDC, and invest hundreds of hours focusing on a key challenge or issue that the business is facing. The program has been nationally recognized by both the Graduate Management Admission Council and The Princeton Review as an innovative program that contributes to the Professional MBA’s overall high standing.
Since its inception in 2004, the program has worked with dozens of local businesses. Steve Janz from Flow Sciences has this to say about the program:
“The UNCW MBA teams and undergraduate interns work hard with Flow Sciences to produce great results,” Janz said. “From viable industry analysis to tangible marketing programs, their deliverables have improved our company and increased the students’ future job prospects.”
Since working with the SBTDC, Flow Science’s sales and profits have grown to the multi-million dollar level. An added benefit to programs like this are the relationships that form, often leading to the business hiring the team members who contributed to the success of the project and giving a serious look at employing graduates produced by our other programs. In the Cameron School, these relationships are essential to providing the highest quality education possible. To learn more about the SBTDC, please visit http://www.sbtdc.org/offices/uncw/ or call (910) 962-3744.
Robert T. Burrus, Jr., Ph.D., is the dean of the Cameron School of Business at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, named in June 2015. Burrus joined the UNCW faculty in 1998. Prior to his current position, Burrus was interim dean, associate dean of undergraduate studies and the chair of the department of economics and finance. Burrus earned a Ph.D. and a master’s degree in economics from the University of Virginia and a bachelor’s degree in mathematical economics from Wake Forest University. The Cameron School of Business has approximately 60 full-time faculty members and 20 administrative and staff members. The AACSB-accredited business school currently enrolls approximately 2,000 undergraduate students in three degree programs and 200 graduate students in four degree programs. The school also houses the prestigious Cameron Executive Network, a group of more than 200 retired and practicing executives that provide one-on-one mentoring for Cameron students. To learn more about the Cameron School of Business, please visit http://csb.uncw.edu/. Questions and comments can be sent to [email protected].
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