There’s an Ethiopian proverb that states, “When the webs of the spider join, they can trap a lion.” And today, there’s no bigger lion than the speed of business. With the business landscape and technology changing faster than ever, there is a variety of interconnected challenges to tackle. These include:
- Companies looking for ways to fill skill gaps in their workforce
- Students looking for experiences and connections that give them access to good jobs
- Universities trying to ensure their students are getting the knowledge and experience they need to thrive
Bringing businesses, universities and students together can create a three-way win. Companies and universities that work together can build a connection that can turn any lion of a challenge into a lamb of opportunity.
Connecting businesses and universities fosters growth
When building a partnership, start with a few simple ideas, and let the relationship evolve. For example, ask company staff members to do mock interviews so students can hone their skills. Or ask them to speak to a class about their employment experience. According to Laura Wijkowski, an administrative assistant at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, alumni periodically offer workshops or talk to students about how their degrees led them to their current careers.
Benefits for both
A popular company phrase is Corporate Social Responsibility. It can be a two-way street. Universities should thank businesses publicly for assistance, sponsorships or opportunities they create for students. This will affect the community’s impression of the company, boosting its bottom line.
Companies that hire students or bring them on board for internships provide students valuable experience and ensure a steady stream of potential future employees. This helps the university because business involvement has been linked to lower student dropout rates.
Make an educational exchange
Students aren’t the only ones who can learn valuable skills when connecting with businesses. Educators who are looking for real world knowledge of their industry may want to job shadow or even take on a limited role in a business project to provide the most current information on the subject they teach.
Companies can also take advantage of learning opportunities. Have employees audit a university class to help polish their skills. They may also benefit from the student discussions about how the industry is changing.
Exchange research information
As students reach higher levels of education, they frequently research new and complex scientific problems or technology that may be of interest to local companies. Businesses may want to reach out to universities to help fund long-term projects. Both schools and companies benefit from these partnerships.
Connections create opportunities
Once a student’s tassel is turned, universities begin the sometimes difficult process of maintaining a connection. Alumni are critical for universities because former students often serve as the school’s ambassadors, helping them to:
- Create and maintain corporate contacts
- Recruit and retain students
- Raise money for the future
Staying in touch with alumni can be challenging. In fact, 85% of people working in alumni offices feel that their organization needs to engage more with recent graduates.
For the University of Kentucky, graduation is the beginning of its connection with new alumni. And it uses university promotional products to help build a bond.
Make connections using school promotional products.
“During graduation weekend, we hold an event called the ‘Grad Gathering,’” said Kathryn Kearns, an administrative support associate at the University of Kentucky Alumni Association in Lexington, Ky. “People can come and go as they please, there’s a photo opportunity, and we hand a keychain to them there in the room.”
“It’s their first piece of alumni gear,” Kearns said.
If you’re searching for ways to keep your ultra-valuable alumni engaged, these tips (and university swag) can help.
4 ways to communicate with alumni
Address audience segments
No two graduates are alike, which means how you communicate with them will differ. Keep the specifics in mind. Consider the year they graduated, their current profession, their family life and their major to build specific messaging to help increase interest and engagement.
Take the focus off funding
While you’ll always value donations, some alumni would rather offer their time or expertise. These types of contributions can have an enormous impact.
For example, University of Kentucky alumni sometimes offer a personal touch. “We have a letter writing campaign, where we send alumni a pen and a postcard and they write a message to people who haven’t yet declared they want to go to UK,” Kathryn Kearns said. “It’s been very successful.”
And the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma Alumni Association has found ways to help students succeed. The school recently offered a new program for struggling students.
“This past year, we started a mentorship program with some of our sophomores,” said Laura Wijkowski. “We matched up previous grads in their majors with students we felt were in danger of hitting a ‘sophomore slump’ and offered them three or four opportunities to talk in person or via Skype® to offer encouragement.” All the students ended the year successfully and will be returning for their junior year.
Alumni also share their experience at the school, serving as an important touchpoint for new students at the school’s annual “Dover Launch” event. Students who meet with alumni and staff also receive university swag. Most recently, the school gave them a ShimmerZ Outdoor Bottle with Flip Straw Lid.
Branded swag can help schools connect with alumni.
“The bottles were so popular we ended up ordering more of them to hand out at alumni events,” Wijkowski said.
“We pass them out at alumni happy hours and we also have tables of the bottles and stickers whenever we hold an alumni gathering on campus.” The university promotional products have helped the school connect with new and former students while also serving as a brand booster.
Give alumni designated web space
Create an alumni microsite or portal on your university website to make it easier for them to find information and events.
Building connections with businesses and alumni has long-term benefits for everyone. Nourishing these connections (and sharing a few university promotional products) can result in programs that will help several generations to come.
Promotional products can be a great way to connect to alumni and future graduates.
Alumni swag everyone will love!
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