IBA Karachi organizes CEO Forum on 'Industry-Academia Linkages - Why and How?'

September 16, 2021: The IBA Karachi organized a discourse on 'Industry-Academia Linkages - Why and How?' at the IBA City Campus. This was the second session conducted under the dialogue series 'CEO Forum'. The discussion was moderated by Dr. S Akbar Zaidi, Executive Director, IBA Karachi who was in conversation with corporate leaders, including Ms. Jehan Ara, Founder and CEO, Katalyst Labs and Mr. Raza Pirbhai, CEO, KFC Pakistan. Attendees included industrialists, students, faculty, media personnel, academicians and members from the corporate sector.

Commencing the session, Dr. Zaidi inquired the speakers about how to bridge the gap between the academia and the industry. And how the academia can provide solutions to the industry and the challenges associated with it.

Sharing her expertise, Ms. Jehan opined that a good foundation of education must be laid at university level. But the main skillset is developed once an individual is employed and, on the job, learning and training takes place. She also said that the IT industry needs trained personnel and currently there is a lack of such human resources.

Reflecting on his vast industry experience, Mr. Pirbhai stated that universities cannot keep up with rapid industrial changes and requirements. He said that the era of only obtaining a degree from renowned universities had passed and in today's world, one needs eagerness to learn and adaptability to change. "Leading universities produce good quality talent, but external elements including technology are changing rapidly and therefore universities are facing a challenge of keeping up with the industry's requirements", said Mr. Pirbhai.

Ms. Jehan Ara stated that technology is just a tool and that currently, platforms including MIT and Coursera offer free courses and students should utilize this opportunity to strengthen their skillset. "Universities have to teach their students to update themselves and be ready to learn new things and be equipped to meet the ever-evolving work environment", she said. And further emphasized that IBA has a good faculty from the industry but that is not enough as students and universities need to work together to update students.

Mr. Pirbhai spoke about the role of internships and how a structured internship program helps mentor students to adapt to today's work environment.

Dr. Zaidi opined that universities have the capacity to adapt as compared to school curricula. He stated that universities update their teaching modules periodically to keep up with the evolving trends and practices.

Dr. Zaidi also inquired the speakers about how they found the role of women in their respective industries.

Ms. Jehan Ara said, "The performance and the curiosity to learn is much higher among women. Out of 9 employees in my team, 7 are women and they were selected on merit. Many companies now want to hire women and are also offering day care facilities and flexible hours to accommodate them". She said the IT industry wants more female employees.

Mr. Pirbhai agreed that women demonstrate exceptional commitment and that KFC is playing its role in making the work environment conducive for women, and even has an only women-run restaurant in Lahore.

Dr. Zaidi asked the speakers what academia needs to change to be more relevant to the industry's requirements.

Mr. Pirbhai stated that a structured platform needs to be established where the academia and industry can jointly decide the best practices and teaching methodologies to teach and train the students for the ever-evolving work environment.

Ms. Jehan Ara said that we need to make the environment safe for women to work and universities have a role to play here as students taught respect towards the opposite gender will carry it forward to their workplaces.

The conversation culminated with an emphasis on the academia and industry to collaborate to overcome the divide between the two.

The dialogue concluded with a Q&A session between the speakers and the audience.