Collaboration between Education and Industry: Key to Workplace Readiness

Male African American student and a female Asian student studying in a library

Across the nation, businesses and governments are facing the challenge of high levels of youth unemployment and a shortage of job seekers with critical skills.

Merely having a high school diploma isn’t enough to be qualified even for many blue-collar jobs in today’s workplace. The job market now requires a higher level of analytical reading, writing, and math than the same jobs 10 or 20 years ago.

The rapid evolution of technology is fueling this gap. As a result, educators are seeking ways to partner with employers to more closely align the skills needed to succeed on the job.

How can educators do their part to close the skills gap? Close collaboration with employers and industry on curriculum development, lab training, and professional standards is critical to ensuring schools are producing work-ready graduates who can quickly begin to deliver value without the need for additional on-the-job training.

A recent McKinsey & Company study (2013) highlights two features that stand out among programs to prepare work-ready graduates. First, education providers and employers must actively step into one another’s worlds. For example, employers can help design curricula and offer their employees as faculty while education providers can have students spend time on a job site and assist with job placement. Second, the most transformative solutions involve multiple providers and employers working within a particular industry or function. Such collaborations help solve the skills gap at a sector level by splitting costs among multiple stakeholders (educators, employers and trainees). As a result, investment is reduced for everyone, which acts as an incentive for increased participation.

Universal Technical Institute (UTI) embraces this model through industry partnerships with manufacturers of more than 30 leading brands — including Ford, GM, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and Peterbilt —  and NASCAR to create some of the most innovative and sophisticated education programs in the automotive, diesel, motorcycle, marine and motorsports industries. UTI’s original equipment manufacturer partners invest millions of dollars in the development of curriculum, design of labs, and supplying of vehicles and equipment for the students’ real world learning experience, helping drive our capital investment requirements lower. Educators closely collaborate with manufacturers on curriculum development and training program refinement through biannual Program Advisory Council meetings wherein industry representatives meet with educators, review curricula and recommend changes to align learning with industry demands.

Collaboration with industry associations is also key to aligning instruction with in-demand skills. Increasingly, employers are looking for industry certifications to validate prospective employees’ ability to perform. As a result, educators should seek involvement from industry associations to ensure alignment between classroom instruction and on-the-job requirements. For example, UTI’s Automotive, Diesel, and Collision Repair and Refinish programs are accredited by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF), a division of the Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE).* UTI also offers advanced programs to provide in-depth training that can help graduates qualify for highly specialized auto and diesel dealership positions requiring brand-specific knowledge.

Finally, educators must collaborate with industry through the employment phase following graduation. Participation in local workforce development boards is one way that educators are working closely with elected officials, administrators and employers to stay attuned to changing demands in the workplace and charting pathways for post-graduation employment for students. Participating in your local workforce investment board can help you build relationships with employers to develop intern and apprenticeship programs, organize career fairs and support placement of skilled graduates.

The results speak for themselves. At UTI, this approach has resulted in successful outcomes for our graduates and the employers they go to work for.  In fact, four out of five of our graduates found jobs in the fields they trained for at UTI** and our industry partners are telling us that they can’t find enough technicians to fill the jobs they have.

Collaboration between educators and industry results in a win-win-win for student, employer and educator through strong employment and graduation outcomes for students, and by delivering graduates with the skills employers need in today’s workplace. Taking the initiative by identifying mutually beneficial partnerships and collaborating with industry will yield positive outcomes and help to ensure that tomorrow’s graduates are in demand and equipped with the skills to succeed in today’s workforce.


About the Author
Jan Tkaczyk

Jan Tkaczyk

Jan Tkaczyk is a retired guidance director/school psychologist (35 years), who now serves as the national director for Counselor and Academic Relations at Universal Technical Institute. She brings to this current position not only many years of experience with high school students, but also service to the profession as both the former Massachusetts School Counselor Association president and executive director as well as ASCA vice president. Jan was the director of external relations at Screening for Mental Health and an adjunct Pprofessor at UMass Boston for ten years in the master’s program for professional school counselors.  She is a proud Rotarian of 25 years and a Paul Harris Fellow.



Mourshed, M., Farrell, D., & Barton, D. (2013). Education to employment: Designing a system that works. McKinsey & Company. Retrieved from McKinsey & Company website:


* Not all programs are NATEF accredited. The first class of a new school must graduate before accreditation can be considered.

** Approximately 9,900 of the 10,600 UTI graduates in 2013 were available for employment. At the time of reporting, approximately 8,700 were employed within one year of their graduation date, for a total of 88%. Per UTI’s accreditor’s reporting standards, this rate excludes graduates in the following classifications: continuing education, active military service deployment, a health condition that prevents employment, incarceration, international students who have returned to their country of origin, or death.  This rate includes graduates employed in positions that were obtained before or during their UTI education, where the primary job duties after graduation align with the educational and training objectives of the program.  UTI cannot guarantee employment or salary.