Corporate cooperation integrated into teaching is a win-win-win

Seven translation companies are taking part in an effort to promote career skills of University of Helsinki’s translation students this spring – for the third time. The partnership has benefitted all parties, and the cooperation model could easily be duplicated for other fields.

Why would competing companies cooperate and offer free help for university teaching? How can the University and its students benefit from corporate cooperation?

The course An Introduction to the Translation Industry is not just companies running a one-time recruitment drive or exploiting students for a project. Anu Carnegie-Brown, CEO of Sandberg Translation Partners, came up with the original idea for the course.

She had long wondered how to bridge the gap between translation companies and graduating students.

– We want to give students the kinds of skills and knowledge that they will need once they graduate and enter the industry. This way, the companies that recruit them won’t have to spend as many resources on new-employee orientation.

Carnegie-Brown raised the issue with her colleagues from different companies in 2014. One of the colleagues was Danilo Monaco, who is now the CEO of Arancho Doc Group. Together they contacted teachers at the Department of Modern Languages and translation companies operating in Finland. This sparked a pilot project for testing corporate cooperation in course format in the spring of 2015.

I hope our course will help students feel pride in their professional skills and be bolder in expressing their competence

Carnegie-Brown and Monaco both want to give students a realistic image of what working in the translation business is like, as well as practical career skills. While they value the academic language and translation teaching provided at the University, they wonder why students seem to lack confidence in their employability.

 – I hope our course will help students feel pride in their professional skills and be bolder in expressing their competence, says Carnegie-Brown.

The translation business is highly competitive, but the companies have found that in-fighting helps nobody. The best employees go from one company to the next, so cooperating with University students seemed a natural extension.

– One strong motivation for companies to participate is of course that we get to meet our potential new employees and see what kinds of special skills students nearing graduation have to offer, explains Danilo Monaco.

Access to company experts and software

Universities are expected to be in active contact with the surrounding society. According to Juha Eskelinen, university instructor of English translation, the course carries out two of the University’s main duties: teaching and community interaction.

– It’s not a project course where the companies bring a problem or challenge for the students to solve. The commitment of the companies runs much deeper, Eskelinen points out.

Only 16 graduation-stage students are admitted to the course, and many hopefuls don’t get in. Restricting the number of participants means the students can receive personal guidance.

– Anu Carnegie-Brown and Danilo Monaco were in charge of the teaching during the week in January. In March, employees from the five other participating companies serve as teachers one day each. In May we have one more week where the teaching is done by Monaco’s company, Arancho Doc, Eskelinen lists.

In addition to three weeks of intensive teaching, the students read translation literature, write a learning journal and visit at least two of the participating companies.

The students receive a broad range of information about how the companies work, what the actual tasks involved in the work are, and they get to learn the translation and project management software used by the various companies.

– The software companies have given us teaching licences to use their software for this and other advanced translation courses.

The companies invest significant resources in the project. For this course alone, the University is receiving more than 100 hours of teaching from career skill experts, free of charge.

– For companies, this means that their employees will not be attending to their translation and project management duties, states Eskelinen.

“Employer contacts should be available throughout studies”

In 2015, Saara Mälkiä took part in a pilot course, with the same seven companies as this year as well as four companies that produce translation software.

– It was eye-opening to see all the things these companies do in addition to translation and language revision.

During the course, Mälkiä saw an opportunity to ask for a summer job at one of the participating companies. AAC Global Oy found Mälkiä to be a good employee, and they extended her contract. Now Mälkiä works there as a project manager.

– I work between the client and the translator. My job is to make sure that the translator can focus on translating and that the client receives the product they commissioned with the highest possible quality and by the deadline.

Academic studies provide theoretical knowledge, but learning about daily work needs input from organisations in the industry. Mälkiä encourages all students to apply for similar courses.

– The companies gave me useful information on managing translation projects and working with clients, things that were absent from my other University studies.

Student feedback from the two previous courses has yielded high praise. The primary point of criticism has been that a course like this is only available towards the end of their studies.

– Students should be in contact with employers throughout their studies so that the academic knowledge would be more integrated with real-world career skills, says Mälkiä.

What if students drop out to work?

Employer participation in teaching is not without its risks for the University. If students are whisked away by work, they may not complete their Master’s degrees, meaning major financial losses for the University. In addition, incomplete studies will later cause problems for the students’ career development.

– This year we’ve made a gentlemen’s agreement with the companies that they will not recruit our students until they are genuinely about to graduate with a Master’s degree, says Juha Eskelinen, who coordinates the course.

At the same time, students finding employment should not be a problem for the Universtiy. One of the University of Helsinki’s strategic objectives is to produce experts for various fields of society. Most of the students from previous courses have since found employment with the participating companies.

Saara Mälkiä is one of such students, and her studies have indeed lagged. However, Mälkiä’s worries over her incomplete degree are about to end, as she is putting the finishing touches on her Master’s thesis.

– My employer has supported me by letting me attend my Master’s thesis seminars during office hours. I will graduate with a Master’s degree this June, vows Mälkiä.

Partnerships support the University’s teaching

All parties want these courses to continue, but they cannot be left to Anu Carnegie-Brown and Danilo Monaco alone.

– In the future, the responsibility could be more evenly divided among all participating companies, says Carnegie-Brown.

The education reform currently underway at the University of Helsinki means career orientation studies will become a compulsory component of both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. Juha Eskelinen participated in the planning of the new teaching programmes for the Department of Modern Languages.

– In the future, this will be an optional course in the Master’s programme in translation communication. This course is definitely one of the winners in the Big Wheel reform, rejoices Eskelinen.

This form of corporate partnership integrated into teaching can be duplicated, particularly by degree programmes where the University provides the theoretical foundation, but the practical realities of work can best be introduced by companies and other organisations in the field.

At least we CEO’s at translation companies would love to see the University’s research on the future of our business

Such partnerships require cooperation within the University as well as the resources needed to find suitable partners. In addition, Eskelinen points out that the course arrangements take their time.

– On the other hand, I have seen the work of many different companies in the translation business and gained a more versatile contact network than I might have done by going to a conference as a researcher. My contacts will be helpful in both teaching and research.

When pursuing corporate cooperation, the University should also consider what things it has to offer companies besides labour. Research results and applications would be in demand outside academia. This would also cover the University’s third core duty.

– At least we CEO’s at translation companies would love to see the University’s research on the future of our business, says Anu Carnegie-Brown.

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Translated by Emma Voutilainen

Revised by Lisa Muszynski