ADA University: A Model of Higher Education Institution–Business Cooperation
By Gulnur Ismayil
How Career Development Has Changed in this Part of the World
Azerbaijan is a transcontinental country situated where Eastern Europe and Western Asia meet. Its borders touch upon the Caspian Sea, Russia, Georgia, Armenia, and Iran. Just a decade ago, this part of the world would not think of a need for career counseling, facilitation and direction. Azerbaijan, like many countries of the former Soviet Union, knew “placements” for each institution of higher education and, in particular, employment offered to its Science, Technological, Engineering, and Math students. Each student had a chance to get hired by an employer in a related industry. But there has never been a consideration to analyze the skills, interests and aptitudes of a graduate to ensure a real match and right fit.
In the early 1990s that practice started to dissolve as the Soviet Union collapsed. When each country earned its independence, transformation of their education system started. No longer were students able to think they had secure jobs waiting for them upon graduation. Slowly, employability skills came to be an important issue for educational institutions in many countries, and Azerbaijan is leading the region that brought up the concern of graduate career success.
Establishing the Modern University–Industry Collaboration
ADA University was the first to establish a University–Industry collaboration and start effective career preparation and development for its students while at school. Established in 2006 as a training vehicle for young diplomats, Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy opened its doors in 2009 for the first graduate class of a Diplomacy and International Affairs major. Since that time, ADA University has grown extensively. In 2011, the first Bachelors degree cohort was admitted to the school. Later, this cohort became part of the University, including its International and Public Affairs, Business, Education, Information Technology, and Engineering Schools.
Today, ADA University is not just about introducing new educational approaches and bringing international experience opportunities to its students. It is about new trends that are shaping generations of open-minded, skilled, well-rounded young citizens with strong cultural roots and heritage.
Interactive learning, ownership, self-development, dynamic student life, career focus, and leadership development – that is what ADA University is about. ADA focuses on a holistic approach to student development that includes active in-class engagement, group work, team assignments, and career ownership.
The Career Center plays a major role in the experience of our students. It offers individual career counseling and helps in charting a course for students’ careers, from job searching through ADA’s extensive professional network, to assisting them with job leads and internships tailored to meet their specific career interests.
Aligning the University with Market Trends and Demands
In contrast with local universities, ADA University sets its curriculum and programs in line with market trends and demands. Curriculum mapping is one of the key features of the close cooperation between its Schools and Career Center. Recently, there has been a highly competitive job market where “being employed” is not a secure state of well-being. ”Being employable” is most important in ADA’s graduates’ job search. So, what can be done to help fresh graduates cope with the challenging realities of high competition, increasing unemployment, economic turnovers, and inconsistency of education programs with job market demands? One answer is to bridge graduates’ talents with industries and careers, including the following:
Let the Market Speak: Survey major employers and assess their hiring needs, preferences, requirements, and expectations of candidates for hire;
Bring Employers On Campus: Create an engaging environment for employers on campus via presentations, a speaker series, career fairs, networking events, etc.;
Give a Say: Allow industry leaders to take ownership for curriculum through setting up Advisory Boards and engaging them in program development, mentorship programs and promotion;
Establish Experiential Learning: Establish partnership agreements with employers to offer regular internship, project work and employment opportunities for students;
Mentoring Opportunities: Bring prominent Executives- and Ambassadors-in- Residence for a professional mentorship program where students may be coached by an experienced practitioner;
Teaching and In-Class Engagement: Invite business and public sector representatives to offer courses or team-teach with professors;
Engage in Professional Development Programs: Recruit industry experts to participate in career seminars and workshops as well as individual career planning sessions.
In summary, employer on-campus participation sets a unique study and work environment where students get hands-on experience and information about major career trends while acquiring fundamental degree knowledge. Engagement of employers in student development helps not only new graduates learn and succeed in their job search, it also helps employers to prepare and develop potential talent for their businesses.
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Gulnur Ismayil is a certified Global Career Development Facilitator, as well as founder and current leader of ADA’s Career Management Center. Before joining ADA University, Gulnur worked for the international executive recruitment agency, Michael Page International, in Moscow, Russia. There, she facilitated establishment of a new business line in Sales and Marketing for the Healthcare and Government sectors. She holds a Master’s degree in Area Studies from Volgograd State University, Russia, and a Master’s degree in Diplomacy from the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom. For further information, Gulnur may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org