Similar to the internships that give college students a glimpse of the real business world, ‘externships’ help those who teach them get a flavour of the real-world they are getting them ready for

The experience gap. These days a mere degree is no guarantee of getting the kind of work you wish to do. Even to get a foot in the door, your work experience counts. Fresh college graduates bridge that experience gap somewhat though internships that they participate in while at college. Internships are a valuable and accepted way for students to get their experience in the real business world.

Historically, academia and practitioners in the corporate world are often not in tandem. Business honchos are sceptical about the real-world capabilities of raw college graduates with no work experience. Fresh graduates search for the answers to messy real business problems in the pristine pages of books and classrooms. Professors teaching them too acknowledge that there is a gap in what the academic world teaches and the real world demands.

The problem, however, is partly in that those who teach are also in some ways cocooned in their academic worlds, with no everyday work experience. Termed the ‘rigour- relevance’ gap, now more and more academies are trying to bridge it so that both sides can benefit. “Science and practice will not be worse for their collaboration. On the contrary, to some degree they will be different, by virtue of their mutual enrichment” ‘Bridging the rigour relevance gap in management research: it is already happening! Journal of Management Studies, (Hodgkinson and Rousseau, 2009, Hodgkinson, G. P. and Rousseau, D. M. (2009).

So how does a teacher keep in touch with the real world and the very real problems that she must teach the students to deal with? A Harvard professor has come up with an idea she calls externship.

Similar to an internship which involves students going and working briefly in an organisation that they hope to build a career with, the professor takes a break from his teaching and works with the industry he is trying to prepare his students for. For the duration of the set period, they are no different from any employee who might work at that business. The idea is for a professor/ teacher to go and work in a real world so that they can have a better handle on what the problems are and how they can teach their students to solve those issues. Traditional teaching, research and learning and business have not been in sync with each other. While this changed somewhat with the idea of consulting academies for specific problems, it still did not give the teachers the whole picture as they were still the outsiders, looking in.

The idea is for a professor/teacher to go and work in a real world so that they can have a better handle on what the problems are and how they can teach their students to solve those issues

Student internships give those in college a glimpse into what the work world needs, but since it is the teachers who set direction and address problems that the students might encounter, the gap still exists.

Educational institutions often provide an environment that does not penalise you for experimentation and encourages research. But to get an accurate finding, it cannot be conducted in a vacuum. Real business issues like a demotivated workforce or recession in another country that has global impacts cannot be replicated in a university environment. Cultural values differ from country to country and come into play in today’s globalised world but are less relevant in universities.

Today industry cannot afford the training cycles that it could have traditionally, as technology and human need is evolving much quicker than ever before. In such an environment, the rigour relevance gap might mean the difference between swimming and sinking for fresh graduates joining the workforce. So teachers who train them cannot afford to slip up. Externships bring freshness both to the industry and to the classrooms where future leaders are prepared. Maybe it is time that industry opens up to more academes and gives them an open honest look at how employees function. It is good for teachers to step out of the hallowed halls of learning and walk in the shoes their students have to fit into. It is time for externships!

By Suchismita Pai