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How to Create University-Business Partnerships to Develop Talent and Opportunities in Ann Arbor

Engineers collaborating

Ann Arbor is well known as a “college town” and the companies located here have the chance to develop deep partnerships with our universities and colleges. But what makes strong partnerships? These relationships can drive innovation, attract talent, and create opportunities for collaboration. As research and development and nurturing talent become tougher, organizations that leverage these relationships are better prepared to handle a dynamic market. These are some ways to build effective connections between business and higher education in Ann Arbor. 

Defining Your Goals and Clarifying Your Expectations 

Identifying your goals helps university faculty and staff decide how and where they could assist you. You might need to invest time and money in the relationship. What drives a business isn’t always clear to academia, and the reverse is true, too. 

To better understand their world and where your business can fit in it, when meeting with faculty or staff ask the following questions:

  • What is important for your subsection of the organization within the university? 
  • How do they measure success? 
  • How may a business help a college or university reach its goals?
  • Is there a goal for corporately-sponsored research? A goal around student internships? External engagement, recruiting, or professional development?

You might learn the school focuses more on some areas, such as research, internships, and professional development. Every organization is different, but exploring these questions at the start can help develop a longer-lasting partnership.

Considering Recruiting and Professional Development Partnerships for Growth

Businesses can offer professional development opportunities to students and faculty to help them learn new skills or stay current with industry trends. Building a relationship with them also aids in identifying and recruiting talent. Companies may attend career fairs, give presentations on campus, or partner with career services. For example, KLA Corporation and Sartorius BioAnalytical Instruments have used such opportunities to form roots in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and grow their operations.

The closeness of KLA’s second headquarters to the University of Michigan (U-M) lets both parties forge partnerships conveniently. KLA may also recruit from local schools or the automotive sector.

Since 2007, KLA and the U-M College of Engineering have partnered on training that supports company development goals. The proximity to local campuses was also why Sartorius opened another location in Ann Arbor.

Exploring Research and Development Collaborations to Augment In-House R&D Work

As centers of research and technology, universities help companies do research in areas relevant to their business, yielding new products or improving existing ones. 

To pinpoint research opportunities, ask:

  • What initiatives at the school should we be aware of? 
  • Where does the university hope to grow or develop research?

Wacker Chemical Corporation has used university research to enhance its operations. Through a U-M research partnership, industrial engineering students worked with Wacker on time studies to streamline production, for example.

Discovering How Internships Can Achieve Shared Goals for Success

Another way to form company-campus ties is by offering student internships. They can attract talent and give students valuable career experience. Internships also bridge relationships with faculty, who may become business advocates.

Toyota Motor Corporation and Wacker are among the companies that use internships to foster ties with local schools.

Toyota’s roots in Michigan go back to 1972. The company anchors Michigan’s Mitten Chapter of the Federation of Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME) and has partnered with U-M on research projects and internships.

Wacker has fostered a successful internship program and has hosted University Day, an event that introduces school officials to the business through company tours. In turn, Wacker staff have visited local universities for recruiting.

Ann Arbor SPARK helped form some of these featured partnerships. Get support for building strong relationships with colleges and universities.

How a Trusted Relationship With Faculty Can Form a Powerful Connection 

Faculty advocates may help with research projects, and serve as talent scouts (how impressive is an introduction to an exceptional student by their professor?). These relationships can build your company’s brand through guest lectures or other engagements. Treat these relationships with respect, and understand that the relationships tend to follow the people, not the organization.

Think Strategically to Build Relationships: Seeing Universities Like a Vendor or Partner

Make an Introduction

Participate in Career Fairs

Hands on Engagement
  • Participate in Multidisciplinary Action Projects (MAP) through the University of Michigan.
  • Hire a summer interns through EMU’s Center for Digital Engagement.
  • Get acquainted with students and faculty while you teach and show the benefits of your offerings.
  • Develop a relationship with one of the numerous student groups that may offer free or low-cost support for businesses or organizations. (Kudos to Gavin Lichtenberg for pulling this list together!)

Sponsor a Research Question
  • TechLab – TechLab MCity is an application-based course that immerses student teams in project-based work with a sponsoring startup company that is developing cutting-edge technology for the transportation industry. This a great way to engage students around mobility questions.
  • Sponsor research with faculty.
  • Foster students’ real-world learning. In the process, show how your business can enhance its training and work opportunities.

Show your Expertise
  • Form a trusted relationship with faculty, then position yourself as a guest lecturer.
  • Deepen your school ties and enhance education while you expand your network and student and faculty connections.

Solid academic and business partnerships offer many benefits, from innovation to recruitment. By investing in them, companies position themselves as industry leaders and foster future talent.

Ann Arbor SPARK has connected many leading companies with colleges and universities. These partnerships have grown the local economy and the workforce and have expanded education and technology. For advice on building a lasting bond with an educational institution to foster your business growth, contact us today.