STEP: How University Carlos III of Madrid is Bridging the Gap between Academia and Industry

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Although young, University Carlos III of Madrid is quickly asserting itself as one of the most successful universities in Spain. Among other things, the university is well known for a solid graduate employability, which is greatly facilitated by its educational programs that integrate “curricular practices in companies”. STEP is one of such programs at the university that aims to boost graduate employability by providing a mix of classroom and work based learning opportunities for recent graduates. The program specifically targets the generic competency of graduates, i.e. interpersonal relations and teamwork that are so essential to become successful in the world of work. The program is undertaken in collaboration with national and international organizations in the region who are willing to host and systematically follow up the professional developments of attendees of the program. The program is designed as an open program to every graduate of the university, for all bachelor and master’s graduates regardless of their fields of study, because the university believes that the professional competencies targeted are universally applicable to all groups.

The structure of the program

STEP is designed as a 36 credits specialist degree program with two mutually reinforcing components: Academic training and company placements.

The academic trainings are conducted face to face with a frequency of around one mandatory session in a month. University Carlos III of Madrid takes full responsibility of the academic course offerings. Four blocks are designed as part of the academic training sessions: development of communication skills and interpersonal relationship, leadership, negotiation, and teamwork. The idea is that these four transversal competences would put graduates in a better position to enact their field specific knowledge and skills and hence, will lead to greater specialization.

The academic trainings are provided in conjunction with an internship in a company that lasts for a maximum of one year. The internships are also structured in a way that maximize the professional development of participants. As such, the host company is expected to provide a plan outlining the learning outcomes and support mechanisms. The plan needs to be approved by University Carlos III of Madrid before the enrollment of the graduate in the program. Additionally, the company is expected to assign a tutor that guide and follow up the graduate.

At the end of the internship program participants are expected to produce a report detailing the knowledge, skill, and experience that they have acquired during their stay at the company. This personal reflection of participants is complemented by the evaluation report provided by the tutor from the host company.

Growing interest among graduates

The positive feedback of the participating companies who indicate the program is responsive to their specific needs is one of the encouraging results of STEP. The program is also growing in popularity amongst graduates of the university with over 140 participants already enrolled into the current cycle of the program. To put this in context, the first cycle had only attracted interest from 14 participants.

More information about the program: http://portal.uc3m.es/portal/page/portal/sopp/programaSTEP

This article is based on a case study originally prepared by Spanish Chamber of Commerce developed as part of the WEXHE Project.  For more information on WEXHE, please visit www.wexhe.eu

Image credit: University Carlos III of Madri