1 University of Aveiro (PORTUGAL)
2 University of Aveiro and IES Fafe (PORTUGAL)
3 Instituto Politécnico de Tomar (PORTUGAL)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2018 Proceedings
Publication year: 2018
Pages: 6128-6134
ISBN: 978-84-09-05948-5
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2018.2440
Conference name: 11th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 12-14 November, 2018
Location: Seville, Spain
Focusing on providing the best teaching and learning process, Higher Education Institutions (HEI) are extremely concerned about the training of future professionals. Indeed, this is its role. Despite all the effort, it is not always easy to be directly related to the companies, in order to develop in practice everything that is taught in the classroom. For instance, in Japan courses have a significant practical learning component accounting for 75% of the total course workload. “Know how to do” is considered more important than “know-how”. One of the reasons is the recognition that soft skills are as important as hard skills for graduate employability [1]. However, teaching in Portugal still has a very theoretical component, although many activities are carried out by teachers, aiming at the practical use of this knowledge.

On the one hand, there are many students who enter the labour market every year and most have had little contact with the business practical context. On the other hand, companies need of support from professionals to manager the firm, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, that accounted 99.9% of firms in Portugal. The probability that these companies need support in some management subjects is high. Although, they do not always seek outside help, and the reasons could be related to several factors like costs, time or decisions centred on the entrepreneur.

Therefore, Portuguese companies need management support, and HEI graduate managers with little practical experience. The combination of these two needs could result in collaboration between them. From a social and financial point of view, this collaboration can achieve surprising results, especially in the less populated territories located in the interior.

Considering needs of companies and of future professionals, this paper aims to develop a proposal in order to create a business support office for training students (and alumni) guided by committed teachers. This work proposes that HEI could be the main link between businesses and students, as well as providing services to society. The office should be independent and complementary in the teaching-learning process of all courses involved, and the main functions are:
i) to identify those interested in supporting the exchange of services;
ii) to provide consulting services (e.g. strategy, marketing, finance, human resources). In a first phase, it should be restricted to the management course and then extended to the remaining courses.

This study has several practical implications. From the student perspective will be expected practical learning and labour market first contact, which will increase the odds of employability. From the perspective of companies, it streamlines the inexpensive support received from professionals. From the HEI perspective, the institution will provide a practical experience.

Bearing in mind that the main result is also to promote the local integration, it is suggested to involve all stakeholders (e.g. City Council, local/regional institutions, associations). It is hoped that it can be applied to disadvantaged or decertified territories, believing that the results of integrated collaboration can differentiate the social and economic aspects of the entire community life.

[1] Andrews, J., & Higson, H. (2008). Graduate Employability, ‘Soft Skills’ Versus ‘Hard’ Business Knowledge: A European Study. Higher Education in Europe, 33(4), 411-422.
University-Industry Cooperation, Higher Education Institutions, Teaching and Learning Methodologies.