Collaboration between the universities of applied sciences and the working world has been the talk of education professionals for over 20 years. The EU as well as the Finnish government, and especially the Ministry of Education and Culture, have pushed the universities towards closer cooperation with companies and projects where the students get the chance to resolve real-life challenges that the companies may face.
Today, a growing number of companies and startups require market analyzing and researches in order to, among other things, improve their finance application portfolios. With this, the know-how that the universities of applied sciences can offer, has become more and more in demand. The benefits that can be gained through working with authentic cases has become apparent for the teachers. For students, working with real life cases is a practical and an interesting way to learn about different tools and topics.
What do these projects offer for the students? And what benefits the companies might gain through working with the universities?
From real life cases to a win-win situation
In International Business Degree Programme at Haaga-Helia we have had excellent experiences from cooperating with international companies. The projects that our students have worked with have for example consisted of global market research produced for the case companies, mostly startups. A good example of this kind of project cooperation is with a startup called SkillSafari, which promotes Finnish quality education and learning by combining in-depth knowledge of education systems around the world. The CEO Satu Järvinen has commented the cooperation in the following way: ”The work done by the students has been very useful for us. We have limited resources for studying the markets, so this cooperation has been a great help for us in getting information and gaining new contacts.” During the project the students have produced several regional market research reports for SkillSafari, some for example for Africa. “We would like to continue with the cooperation. The students have come up with interesting, “out of the box” ideas and given us new perspectives concerning potential markets”, Järvinen praises.
Other good example of a successful cooperation with the working life is with Bluet Oy that works in the field of floating constructions. Their CEO Tytti Sirola has been an active partner for Haaga-Helia in educational projects for some years. During this time, the students have prepared carefully planned market researches in different global markets. In cooperation with the teacher, they have planned and modified the projects in detail based on the internationalization level of each country. Also, due to the variation in the market presence, each project has been different.
According to Sirola all researches and projects have been very useful. “As a company, one must invest a little bit of time when meeting with the students and kicking-off a project. Mid-report is the stage where we have been able to check that the task has been understood correctly and that the students have received enough background information from us. The last stage, final presentation, is when we “collect the fruit” and get the final results. The multicultural groups have usually been very innovative and offered also new contacts which we might not have found ourselves. The project does not only give useful information but also acts as “a trigger” to new ways of thinking within the company. The variety of languages is also another benefit of multicultural projects. Since the students are able to do market research in their own language, we have been able to gain useful insights regarding the market of several countries.”
Sirola stresses that it is not only the projects and the market research that they have gained from the cooperation with Haaga-Helia but also trainees and permanent workforce. “In the future we will continue the collaboration with our excellent partners”, Sirola states.
Better outcome for all
The purpose of cooperating with different companies is to help especially small growth businesses and startups in their need for extensive global market research. The outcome of the projects is beneficial to everybody. For students it presenters a great opportunity to interview companies and CEOs and to discover the real-life challenges of the business world. The success of this type of learning is visible also through the high learning results and motivation to study. This is a learning opportunity for teachers as well. They not only get to enhance their knowledge on the tools for analyzing the projects but also get the chance to work as coaches to the students and intermediaries between them and the companies.
In the end everybody wins. The collaboration is a practical way to teach, learn and also to support Finnish economy to boost the internationalization of our companies and to help them succeed in the ever-intensifying global competition.
The author Päivi Käri-Zein is a senior lecturer in the International Business Degree Programme at Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences.