Faculty externships can create workforce pipelines in growing business hubs as a way to retain talent and provide diverse growth in transforming neighborhoods.
By Katie Lyon

Linkages between workforce development programs and job creators in New York City have historically been inconsistent and weak. There are a number of transformative economic development initiatives underway that promise to generate significant job growth in New York. For these projects to have an inclusive impact on economic stability in New York City, improved collaboration between those who prepare emerging talent for work and those who generate new employment opportunities is necessary.

The leading workforce development engine in New York City is City University of New York (CUNY). Through its 25 campuses across the five boroughs, CUNY educates over 275,000 students in degree programs and an additional 250,000 students through certificate and other continuing education programs. However, for decades CUNY students have been deemed underprepared for work and passed over for the highest paying professional jobs in New York City. Even as technology jobs have grown and financial services jobs have rebounded from the Great Recession, the percentage of CUNY graduates employed in these sectors has declined. A strong connection between CUNY and industry is required to ensure CUNY, the largest talent pipeline in the metropolitan area, is supporting New York City businesses.

Faculty in Residence programs at local businesses are an immensely effective tool to ensure academic coursework is aligned with industry demand and to establish a hiring pipeline for CUNY students with local businesses. Rapid technology advancements and the rise of big data have changed and continue to change the way work is done in sectors ranging from finance to marketing to life sciences. It’s increasingly difficult for academia to remain abreast of industry trends and the nuances of labor market demand. Faculty in Residence programs, typically 2 months to one-year temporary field experience, provide professors an opportunity to work alongside current practitioners and gain up to date experience with innovations in their field.

Residencies for faculty are currently happening at a small scale. For example, KPMG’s James Marwick Professor in Residence Program allows accounting professors to work closely with a team of accountants on current tax, accounting, and audit problems, learn about emerging innovations in the accounting sector. Studies have shown that mutually beneficial externships allow host businesses to benefit from high level research and in-house consulting provided by faculty, as well as faculty exposure to current labor market needs.

The experience for one faculty in residence can have a systemic impact on the student body at CUNY. When a faculty member returns to campus, he or she is able to better align curriculum with the skills the host site is seeking and establish a talent pipeline for his/her students at the host company. When hosts are leaders in their sector, this talent pipeline will expand beyond the host company and allow students to fare better in hiring processes across the industry. With campuses throughout the city, academic institutions should actively introduce comprehensive Faculty in Residence programs that would place professors from across CUNY campuses and academic disciplines in rigorous, paid, short-term residencies that lay the foundation for effective collaboration between the demand and supply sides of the labor market in New York City. Transforming business districts with rich academic hubs, like Downtown Brooklyn, can provide the mutually beneficial infrastructure for both universities and growing businesses, ensuring a vibrant and diverse workforce that retains New York City’s talent.

Katie Lyon is a Business Sector Innovation Specialist at CUNY responsible for continuing education and workforce development programs at the nation’s largest urban public university.