University-Industry Partnerships: Eight Tiring and Rewarding Ways to Meet the Talent Gap
How do you locate new translators? By Facebook or Linkedin posts, ProZ, or your company portal? Can you allocate enough time and resources to train interns? Do you want to keep complaining about poor education practices or feel ready to take action? A University partnership may be the key to funneling top talent into your company, and may improve the quality of industry education at the same time.
Here are eight things to know about University-Industry partnerships and tips to get started:
1. University professors are super busy: Teaching at a university involves a number of time consuming tasks. The last thing university professors need is another exhausting adventure. Before talking to your contacts at the university, prepare a summary of your plans, and then summarize your summary into an elevator pitch. Describe the big picture and ask for one specific action item at a time. In time, when tested and approved a couple of times, professors will be ready to discuss long term plans. So don’t be disappointed if your contact proposes to start with a one-hour seminar while your heart is burning with growing HR gap.
2. Be realistic about your talent development objectives: A one-hour seminar will encourage a bunch of students to apply for a job or internship. A series of one-hour seminars will help growing your employer brand, which means you will encourage more applicants. Seminars are good for branding but rarely qualify as a training activity. If you are looking for trained translators, be prepared to be a part of the development process. Seminars are good for discovering new talents and motivating them to follow your lead for the next months or years. It takes months, if not years to train translators; and that is why you should cooperate with the universities.
3. Get involved in curriculum development: Countries and universities may have different rules for curriculum development. If possible, become a part of the process. To do this, you need to research and analyze trending courses in translation studies. Curriculum development is not about sending your wish list. Be resourceful for your partners. How many contact hours will a professor need to teach the topics you suggest? How many weeks in total? Is this going to be a one-semester course or two-semesters? Can you provide them teaching material, or better, can you train the trainers? Are there other universities doing similar things? Can you join some of the classes and co-teach the subject?
4. Become the trainer you want them to be: If you really want to change things, be the change yourself. If you are a translator like the majority of language business owners, you may want to sharpen your trainer skills and start co-teaching at a university. If you don’t have sufficient background and experience, choose a trusted employee and encourage her/him to become a trainer. The best solution is to co-teach a class, which means sharing some of the hours with a university professor. Co-teaching works two ways: You will learn how to teach while the professor learns what to teach. At the end of the day, you are not there to become a professor, but to help the professors learn new trends and skills needed by translators, editors, and project managers.
5. Translation students are super bored: The earlier you connect with students, the better. As years go by, students may grow discouraged about their profession and start looking for alternative career paths, i.e. teaching, social media, corporate jobs, etc. Screen and filter discouraged students and do not waste your time with unmotivated candidates. Focus your energy on the enthusiastic talents and show them alternative career paths. Translation students may become project managers, QA specialists, localization masters, language engineers and post-editors. Their options are no longer limited with old school translation. Plus, new CAT tools and cloud technologies are great fun to work with. Show them what they can do. Seed their dreams in order to harvest your dream translator.
6. Partner with industry associations: Join industry associations like GALA, ELIA or ATC. Contact the administrators of your local association. Be a part of their initiatives or initiate a local partnership program. The talent gap is real, it is growing, and we are all suffering. You almost certainly receive positive feedback. But this positive feedback may not always include resources, experiences, or funds. Be prepared to do all the hard work on your own and share the award stage with others. Your benefits are two-fold: Students and academicians are typically more motivated if your activities are endorsed by an independent association; other LSP’s will take you as an example and soon you will not feel like a lonely fighter in a dark universe. If you are super lucky, other LSPs will share the training burden, but I wouldn’t count on it until you establish a trusted reputation.
7. Build an online knowledgebase: Or at least publish training content on your corporate blog. Publishing bits of your training content or related material will help you save time on training hours. In time, this online knowledgebase will also help improve the quality of your current linguist base. Make maximum use of modern technology; develop skills to produce videos, webinars, and online quizzes. Don’t be a bore yourself by publishing text-only instructions.
8. Offer students a career path: Yes, people need jobs and it is only normal to question “what is in it for me”. Be mindful of your students’ future concerns and openly discuss with them potential career paths, i.e. QA, project management, MT post-editing, transcreation, etc. What are the required skill sets, how much is the pay, are there other benefits, what are the terms of promotion, etc. If your local regulations and university directives permit, offer star students part-time internship positions. Internships are good for earning pocket money and developing skills. Ideally, an internship should start in the second year (latest by the third year) of the university education and continue with increased salary and responsibilities until the graduation.
If you are really good at this, you will lose 30% of your interns to competition and another 30% to corporations outside of localization industry. Rest assured, the remaining 30-40% will be more than enough to drive your growth potential. Furthermore, there is a good chance that interns working at other LSPs will spread the word and soon they will start following your lead by partnering with other universities. These interns will also help connecting the two LSPs and before you know you may have new partners to undertake large projects together. Interns opt for corporate careers will probably become your brand ambassadors and bring you more jobs.